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LAOCOON. 



Laocoon 



©fifiap tipon i^t Limits of Pamtinff antf Poetrp. 

WITH REMARKS ILLUSTRATIVE OF VARIOUS POINTS IN 
THE HISTORY OF ANCIENT ART. 

BY 

GOTTHOLD EPHRAIM LESSING. 



TRANSLATED BY ELLEN FROTHINGHAM. 




BOSTON: 
ROBERTS BROTHERS. 
1890. 



Entered according to Act o< Congress, in the year 1873, by 

ROBERTS BROTHERS, 
In the oflSce of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 



V 



University Press: 
John Wilson & Son, Cambridge. 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE. 



A TRANSLATION of the Laocoon was given to 
the English pubUc by E. C. Beasley, one of the 
tutors of Leamington College, in 1853. Very 
few copies found their way to America, and the 
book is now difficult to obtain. 

The desire of the present translator has 
been to make a version which could be easily 
read by persons ignorant of any language save 
English. To this end an attempt was made to 
banish all foreign languages from the text, and 
substitute for the original quotations their equiv- 
alents, as near as possible, in English. This 
method was found, however, on trial, to be incom- 
patible with the closeness of Lessing's criti- 
cism, depending, as that in many cases does, 
on the shade of meaning of the original word. 
For the sake of consistency, therefore, Lessing's 
method has been adhered to in every instance ; 
the words of the author cited being retained in 



vi 



translator's preface. 



the text, and a translation given in a foot-note 
wherever the meaning was not sufficiently indi- 
cated by the context. The same course has 
been pursued with the modern as with the 
ancient languages. 

Dryden's translation of Virgil has been used 
throughout, and Bryant's of Homer in every 
case but one, where a quotation from the ^Eneid 
and the Odyssey stood in close connection. In 
this single instance Pope's version was pre- 
ferred; his style being more in harmony with 
that of Dryden, and his want of literalness 
being here not objectionable. 

Such notes as were not necessary to the 
understanding of the text have been transferred 
to the end of the book. 

The translator would here acknowledge the 
valuable assistance received from Mr. W. T. 
Brigham in the rendering of quotations from 
the classics. 

Ellen Frothingham. 

Boston, June, 1873. 



PREFACE. 



The first who compared painting with poetry 
was a man of fine feeUng, who was conscious 
of a similar effect produced on himself by both 
arts. Both, he perceived, represent absent things 
as present, give us the appearance as the real- 
ity. Both produce illusion, and the illusion of 
both is pleasing. 

A second sought to analyze the nature of this 
pleasure, and found its source to be in both cases 
the same. Beauty, our first idea of which is 
derived from corporeal objects, has universal 
laws which admit of wide application. They 
may be extended to actions and thoughts as 
well as to forms. 

A third, pondering upon the value and dis- 
tribution of these laws, found that some obtained 
more in painting, others in poetry: that in 
regard to the latter, therefore, poetry can come 



viii 



PREFACE. 



to the aid of painting ; in regard to the former, 
painting to the aid of poetry, by illustration 
and example. 

The first was the amateur; the second, the 
philosopher ; the third, the critic. 

The first two could not well make a false use 
of their feeling or their conclusions, whereas 
with the critic all depends on the right applica- 
tion of his principles in particular cases. And, 
since there are fifty ingenious critics to one of 
penetration, it would be a wonder if the appli- 
cation were, in every case, made with the cau- 
tion indispensable to an exact adjustment of the 
scales between the two arts. 

If Apelles and Protogenes, in their lost works 
on painting, fixed and illustrated its rules from 
the already established laws of poetry, we may 
be sure they did so with the same moderation 
and exactness with which Aristotle, Cicero, Hor- 
ace, and Quintilian, in their still existing writ- 
ings, apply the principles and experiences of 
painting to eloquence and poetry. It is the 
prerogative of the ancients in nothing either to 
exceed or fall short. 

But we moderns have in many cases thought 
to surpass the ancients by transforming their 
pleasure-paths into highways, though at the risk 



PREFACE. 



IX 



of reducing the shorter and safer highways to 
such paths as lead through deserts. 

The dazzUng antithesis of the Greek Voltaire, 
that painting is dumb poetry, and poetry speak- 
ing painting, stood in no text-book. It was one 
of those conceits, occurring frequently in Simon- 
ides, the inexactness and falsity of which we 
feel constrained to overlook for the sake of the 
evident truth they contain. 

The ancients, however, did not overlook them. 
They confined the saying of Simonides to the 
effect produced by the two arts, not failing 
to lay stress upon the fact that, notwithstand- 
ing the perfect similarity of their effects, the 
arts themselves differ both in the objects and in 
the methods of their imitation, vXri nal tgoTtoig 
liilAriasoog. 

But, as if no such difference existed, many 
modern critics have drawn the crudest conclu- 
sions possible from this agreement between 
painting and poetry. At one time they confine 
poetry within the narrower limits of painting, 
and at another allow painting to fill the whole 
wide sphere of poetry. Whatever is right in 
one must be permitted to the other; whatever 
pleases or displeases in one is necessarily pleas- 
ing or displeasing in the other. Full of this 



PREFACE. 



idea they, with great assurance, give utterance 
to the shallowest judgments, whenever they find 
that poet and painter have treated the same 
subject in a different way. Such variations 
they take to be faults, and charge them on 
painter or poet, according as their taste more 
inclines to the one art or the other. 

This fault-finding criticism has partially mis- 
led the virtuosos themselves. In poetry, a fond- 
ness for description, and in painting, a fancy for 
allegory, has arisen from the desire to make the 
one a speaking picture without really knowing 
what it can and ought to paint, and the other a 
dumb poem, without having considered in how 
far painting can express universal ideas without 
abandoning its proper sphere and degenerating 
into an arbitrary method of writing. 

To combat that false taste and those ill- 
grounded criticisms is the chief object of the 
following chapters. Their origin was accidental, 
and in their growth they have rather followed 
the course of my reading than been systemati- 
cally developed from general principles. They 
are, therefore, not so much a book as irregular 
collectanea for one. 

Yet I flatter myself that, even in this form, 
they will not be wholly without value. We 



PREFACE. 



Germans suffer from no lack of systematic books. 
No nation in the world surpasses us in the fac- 
ulty of deducing from a couple of definitions 
whatever conclusions we please, in most fair and 
logical order. 

Baumgarten acknowledged that he was in- 
debted to Gesner's dictionary for a large propor- 
tion of the examples in his " ^Esthetics." If 
my reasoning be less close than that of Baum- 
garten, my examples will, at least, savor more of 
the fountain. 

Since I made the Laocoon my point of depart- 
ure, and return to it more than once in the 
course of my essay, I wished him to have a share 
in the title-page. Other slight digressions on 
various points in the history of ancient art, 
contribute less to the general design of my work, 
and have been retained only because I never can 
hope to find a better place for them. 

Further, I would state that, under the name 
of painting, I include the plastic arts generally ; 
as, under that of poetry, I may have allowed 
myself sometimes to embrace those other arts, 
whose imitation is progressive. 



LAOCOON. 



I. 

The chief and universal characteristic of the Greek 
masterpieces in painting and sculpture consists, 
according to Winkelmann, in a noble simplicity 
and quiet grandeur, both of attitude and expression. 
" As the depths of the sea," he says,^ " remain al- 
ways at rest, however the surface may be agitated, 
so the expression in the figures of the Greeks re- 
veals in the midst of passion a great and steadfast 
soul." 

" Such a soul is depicted in the countenance of 
the Laocoon, under sufferings the most intense. 
Nor is it depicted in the countenance only: the 
agony betrayed in every nerve and muscle, — we 
almost fancy we could detect it in the painful con- 
traction of the abdomen alone, without looking at 
the face and other parts of the body, — this agony, 
I say, is yet expressed with no violence in the face 
and attitude. He raises no terrible cry, as Virgil 
sings of his Laocoon. This would not be possi- 
ble, from the opening of the mouth, which denotes 

1 Von der Nachahmung der griechischen Vferke in der 
Malerei und Bildhauerkunst, p. 21, 22. 

1 



2 



LAOCOON. 



rather an anxious and oppressed sigh, as described 
by Sadolet. Bodily anguish and moral greatness 
are diffused in equal measure through the whole 
structure of the figure ; being, as it were, balanced 
against each other. Laocoon suffers, but he suffers 
like the Philoctetes of Sophocles. His sufferings 
pierce us to the soul, but we are tempted to envy 
the great man his power of endurance." 

"To express so noble a soul far outruns the 
constructive art of natural beauty. The artist must 
have felt within himself the mental greatness which 
he has impressed upon his marble. Greece united 
in one person artist and philosopher, and had 
more than one Metrodorus. Wisdom joined hands 
with art and inspired its figures with more than 
ordinary souls." 

The remark which lies at the root of this criti- 
cism — that suffering is not expressed in the coun- 
tenance of Laocoon with the intensity which its 
violence would lead us to expect — is perfectly 
just. That this very point, where a shallow observer 
would judge the artist to have fallen short of nature 
and not to have attained the true pathos of suffer- 
ing, furnishes the clearest proof of his wisdom, is 
also unquestionable. But in the reason which Wink- 
elmann assigns for this wisdom, and the universality 
of the rule which he deduces from it, I venture to 
differ from him. 

His depreciatory allusion to Virgil was, I confess, 
the first thing that aroused my doubts, and the 
second was his comparison of Laocoon with Philoc- 



LAOCOON. 



3 



tetes. Using these as my starting-points, I shall 
proceed to write down my thoughts in the order in 
which they have occurred to me. 

"Laocoon suffers like the Philoctetes of Sopho- 
cles." How does Philoctetes suffer? Strange that 
his sufferings have left such different impressions 
upon our minds. The complaints, the screams, the 
wild imprecations with which his pain filled the 
camp, interrupting the sacrifices and all offices of 
religion, resounded not less terribly through the 
desert island to which they had been the cause of 
his banishment. Nor did the poet hesitate to make 
the theatre ring with the imitation of these tones 
of rage, pain, and despair. 

The third act of this play has been regarded as 
much shorter than the others. A proof, say the 
critics,^ that the ancients attached little importance 
to the equal length of the acts. I agree with their 
conclusion, but should choose some other example 
in support of it. The cries of pain, the moans, the 
broken exclamations, cc, a! c^iv ! dzxaxcuf co jwo/', 
noil the nanai^ nwital! filling whole lines, of which 
this act is made up, would naturally require to be 
prolonged in the delivery and interrupted by more 
frequent pauses than a connected discourse. In the 
representation, therefore, this third act must have 
occupied about as much time as the others. It 
seems shorter on paper to the reader than it did 
to the spectator in the theatre. 

A cry is the natural expression of bodily pain, 
1 Briimoy Theat. des Grecs, T. ii. p. 89. 



4 



LAOCOON. 



Homer's wounded heroes not infrequently fall with a 
cry to the ground. Venus screams aloud ^ at a 
scratch, not as being the tender goddess of love, 
but because suffering nature will have its rights. 
Even the iron Mars, on feeling the lance of Dio- 
medes, bellows as frightfully as if ten thousand rag- 
ing warriors were roaring at once, and fills both 
armies with terror.^ 

High as Homer exalts his heroes in other respects 
above human nature, they yet remain true to it in 
their sensitiveness to pain and injuries and in the 
expression of their feelings by cries or tears or 
revilings. Judged by their deeds they are creatures 
of a higher order ; in their feelings they are genuine 
human beings. 

We finer Europeans of a wiser posterity have, I 
know, more control over our lips and eyes. Cour- 
tesy and decency forbid cries and tears. We have 
exchanged the active bravery of the first rude ages 
for a passive courage. Yet even our ancestors were 
greater in the latter than the former. But our ances- 
tors were barbarians. To stifle all signs of pain, to 
meet the stroke of death with unaverted eye, to die 
laughing under the adder's sting, to weep neither over 
our own sins nor at the loss of the dearest of friends, 
are traits of the old northern heroism.^ The law 
given by Palnatoko to, the Jomsburghers was to fear 
nothing, nor even to name the word fear. 

1 Iliad V. 343. 'H de (xeya iaxovaa, 

2 Iliad V. 859. 

3 Th. Bartholinus. De Causis contemptae a Danis adbuc 
Gentilibus Mortis, cap. i. 



LAOCOON. 



5 



Not so the Greek. lie felt and feared. He 
expressed his pain and his grief. He was ashamed 
of no human weakness, yet allowed none to hold 
him back from the pursuit of honor or the perform- 
ance of a duty. Principle wrought in him what 
savageness and hardness developed in the barba- 
rian. Greek heroism was like the spark hidden in 
the pebble, which sleeps till roused by some out- 
ward force, and takes from the stone neither clear- 
ness nor coldness. The heroism of the barbarian 
was a bright, devouring flame, ever raging, and 
blackening, if not consuming, every other good 
quality. 

When Homer makes the Trojans advance to battle 
with wild cries, while the Greeks march in reso- 
lute silence, the commentators very justly observe 
that the poet means by this distinction to charac- 
terize the one as an army of barbarians, the other of 
civilized men. I am surprised they have not per- 
ceived a similar characteristic difference in another 
passage.^ 

The opposing armies have agreed upon an armis- 
tice, and are occupied, not without hot tears on both 
sides (ddxQva -ifeQiAa ^sovreg), with the burning of 
their dead. But Priam forbids his Trojans to weep 
(ovd' Eia xXakiv IlQiaixog ^s'yag), " and for this rea- 
son," says Madame Dacier ; " he feared they might 
become too tender-hearted, and return with less 
spirit to the morrow's fight." Good; but I would 
ask why Priam alone should apprehend this. Why 
* Iliad vii. 421. 



6 



LAOCOON. 



does not Agamemnon issue the same command to 
his Greeks ? The poet has a deeper meaning. He 
would show us that only the civilized Greek can 
weep and yet be brave, while the uncivilized Trojan, 
to be brave, must stifle all humanity. I am in no 
wise ashamed to weep (JVeixscaco^cu ys ovd^v 
aXdiELv), he elsewhere^ makes the prudent son of 
wise Nestor say. 

It is worthy of notice that, among the few trage- 
dies which have come down to us from antiquity, 
there should be two in which bodily pain constitutes 
not the least part of the hero's misfortunes. Besides 
Philoctetes we have the dying Hercules, whom also 
Sophocles represents as wailing, moaning, weeping, 
and screaming. Thanks to our well-mannered neigh- 
bors, those masters of propriety, a whimpering Phil- 
octetes or a screaming Hercules would now be 
ridiculous and not tolerated upon the stage. One 
of their latest poets,^ indeed, has ventured upon a 
Philoctetes, but he seems not to have dared to show 
him in his true character. 

Among the lost works of Sophocles was a Laoc- 
oon. If fate had but spared it to us ! From the 
slight references to the piece in some of the old 
grammarians, we cannot determine how the poet 
treated his subject. Of one thing I am convinced, — 
that he would not have made his Laocoon more of a 
Stoic than Philoctetes and Hercules. Every thing 
stoical is untheatrical. Our sympathy is always 
proportionate with the suffering expressed by the 
1 Odyssey iv. 195. 2 Chateaubrun. 



LAOCOON. 



7 



object of our interest. If we behold him bearing 
his misery with magnanimity, our admiration is 
excited ; but admiration is a cold sentiment, wherein 
barren wonder excludes not only every warmer emo- 
tion, but all vivid personal conception of the suf- 
fering. 

I come now to my conclusion. If it be true that 
a cry, as an expression of bodily pain, is not incon- 
sistent with nobility of soul, especially according to 
the views of the ancient Greeks, then the desire to 
represent such a soul cannot be the reason why the 
artist has refused to imitate this cry in his marble. 
He must have had some other reason for deviating 
in this respect from his rival, the poet, who expresses 
it with deliberate intention. 



s 



LAOCOON. 



II. 

Be it truth or fable that Love made the first attempt 
in the imitative arts, thus much is certain : that she 
never tired of guiding the hand of the great masters 
of antiquity. For although painting, as the art 
which reproduces objects upon flat surfaces, is now 
practised in the broadest sense of that definition, 
yet the wise Greek set much narrower bounds to it. 
He confined it strictly to the imitation of beauty. 
The Greek artist represented nothing that was not 
beautiful. Even the vulgarly beautiful, the beauty 
of inferior types, he copied only incidentally for 
practice or recreation. The perfection of the sub- 
ject must charm in his work. He was too great 
to require the beholders to be satisfied with the 
mere barren pleasure arising from a successful like- 
ness or from consideration of the artist's skill. Noth- ^ 
ing in his art was dearer to him or seemed to him 
more noble than the ends of art. 

" Who would want to paint you when no one wants 
to look at you ? " says an old epigrammatist ^ to a mis- 
shapen man. Many a modern artist would say, " No 
matter how misshapen you are, I will paint you. 
Though people may not like to look at you, they 
will be glad to look at my picture ; not as a portrait 

1 See Appendix, note i. 



LAOCOON. 



9 



ot you, but as a proof of my skill in making so 
close a copy of such a monster." 

The fondness for making a display with mere 
manual dexterity, ennobled by no worth in the sub- 
ject, is too natural not to have produced among the 
Greeks a Pauson and a Pyreicus. They had such 
painters, but meted out to them strict justice. Pau- 
son, who confined himself to the beauties of ordi- 
nary nature, and whose depraved taste liked best 
to represent the imperfections and deformities of 
humanity,^ lived in the most abandoned poverty;^ 
and Pyreicus, who painted barbers' rooms, dirty 
workshops, donkeys, and kitchen herbs, with all the 
diligence of a Dutch painter, as if such things were 
rare or attractive in nature, acquired the surname of 
Rhyparographer,^ the dirt-painter. The rich voluptu- 
aries, indeed, paid for his works their weight in gold, 
as if by this fictitious valuation to atone for their in- 
significance. 

Even the magistrates considered this subject a 
matter worthy their attention, and confined the 
artist by force within his, proper sphere. The law 
of the Thebans commanding him to make his copies 
more beautiful than the originals, and never under 
pain of punishment less so, is well known. This 
was no law against bunglers, as has been supposed 
by critics generally, and even by Junius himself,^ 

* See Appendix, note 2. 

2 Aristophanes, Plut. v. 602 et Acharnens. v. 854. 

3 Plinius, lib. xxx. sect. 37. 

* De Pictura vet. lib. ii. cap. iv. sect. i. 



10 



LAOCOON. 



but was aimed against the Greek Ghezzi, and con 
demned the unworthy artifice of obtaining a likeness 
by exaggerating the deformities of the model. It 
was, in fact, a law against caricature. 

From this same conception of the beautiful came 
the law of the Olympic judges. Every conqueror in 
the Olympic games received a statue, but a portrait- 
statue was erected only to him who had been thrice 
victor.^ Too many indifferent portraits were not 
allowed among works of art. For although a por- 
trait admits of being idealized, yet the likeness should 
predominate. It is the ideal of a particular person, 
not the ideal of humanity. 

We laugh when we read that the very arts among 
the ancients were subject to the control of civil law ; 
but we have no right to laugh. Laws should un- 
questionably usurp no sway over science, for the 
object of science is truth. Truth is a necessity of 
the soul, and to put any restraint upon the gratifica- 
tion of this essential want is tyranny. The object 
of art, on the contrary, is pleasure, and pleasure is 
not indispensable. What kind and what degree of 
pleasure shall be permitted may justly depend on 
the law-giver. 

The plastic arts especially, besides the inevitable 
influence which they exercise on the character of a 
nation, have power to work one effect which demands 
the careful attention of the law. Beautiful statues 
fashioned from beautiful men reacted upon their 
creators, and the state was indebted for its beautiful 

1 Plinius, lib. xxxiv. sect. 9. 



LAOCOON. 



II 



men to beautiful statues. With us the susceptible 
imagination of the mother seems to express itself 
only in monsters. 

From this point of view I think I detect a truth in 
certain old stories which have been rejected as fables. 
The mothers of Aristomenes, of Aristodamas, of 
Alexander the Great, Scipio, Augustus, and Gal- 
erius, each dreamed during pregnancy that she was 
visited by a serpent. The serpent was an emblem of 
divinity.-^ Without it Bacchus, Apollo, Mercury, and 
Hercules were seldom represented in their beautiful 
pictures and statues. These honorable women had 
been feasting their eyes upon the god during the 
day, and the bewildering dream suggested to them 
the image of the snake. Thus I vindicate the 
dream, and show up the explanation given by the 
pride of their sons and by unblushing flattery. For 
there must have been some reason for the adulterous 
fancy always taking the form of a serpent. 

But I am wandering from my purpose, which was 
simply to prove that among the ancients beauty was 
the supreme law of the imitative arts. This being 
established, it follows necessarily that whatever else 
these arts may aim at must give way completely if 
incompatible with beauty, and, if compatible, must at 
least be secondary to it. 

I will confine myself wholly to expression. There 
are passions and degrees of passion whose expres- 
sion produces the most hideous contortions of the 
face, and throws the whole body into such unnatural 

1 See Appendix, note 3. 



12 



LAOCOON. 



positions as to destroy all the beautiful lines thai 
mark it when in a state of greater repose. These 
passions the old artists either refrained altogether 
from representing, or softened into emotions which 
were capable of being expressed with some degree 
of beauty. 

Rage and despair disfigured none of their works. 
I venture to maintain that they never represented 
a fury.^ Wrath they tempered into severity. In 
poetry we have the wrathful Jupiter, who hurls the 
thunderbolt ; in art he is simply the austere. 

Anguish was softened into sadness. Where that 
was impossible, and where the representation of in- 
tense grief would belittle as well as disfigure, how 
did Timanthes manage ? There is a well-known 
picture by him of the sacrifice of Iphigenia, wherein 
he gives to the countenance of every spectator a 
fitting degree of sadness, but veils the face of the 
father, on which should have been depicted the most 
intense suffering. This has been the subject of 
many petty criticisms. " The artist," says one,^ 
" had so exhausted himself in representations of 
sadness that he despaired of depicting the father's 
face worthily." " He hereby confessed," says an- 
other,^ " that the bitterness of extreme grief cannot 

1 See Appendix, note 4. 

2 Plinius, lib. xxxv. sect. 35. Cum mcestos pinxisset omnes, 
praecipue patruum, et tristitiae omnem imaginem consump- 
sisset, patris ipsius vultum velavit, quern digne non poterat 
ostendere. 

3 Valerius Maximus, lib. viii. cap. 2. Summi moeroris 
acerbitatem arte exprimi non posse confessus est. 



LAOCOON. 



13 



be expressed by art," I, for my pa/t, see in this no 
proof of incapacity in the artist or his art. In pro- 
portion to the intensity of feeling, the expression of 
the features is intensified, and nothing is easier than 
to express extremes. But Timanthes knew the 
limits which the graces have imposed upon his art. 
He knew that the grief befitting Agamemnon, as 
father, produces contortions which are essentially 
ugly. He carried expression as far as was consist- 
ent with beauty and dignity. Ugliness he would 
gladly have passed over, or have softened, but since 
his subject admitted of neither, there was nothing 
left him but to veil it. What he might not paint he 
left to be imagined. That concealment was in short 
a sacrifice to beauty ; an example to show, not how 
expression can be carried beyond the limits of art, 
but how it should be subjected to the first law of 
art, the law of beauty. 

Apply this to the Laocoon and we have the cause 
we were seeking. The master was striving to attain 
the greatest beauty under the given conditions of 
bodily pain. Pain, in its disfiguring extreme, was 
not compatible with beauty, and must therefore be 
softened. Screams must be reduced to sighs, not 
because screams would betray weakness, but because 
they would deform the countenance to a repulsive 
degree. Imagine Laocoon's mouth open, and judge. 
Let him scream, and see. It was, before, a figure to 
inspire compassion in its beauty and suffering. Now 
it is ugly, abhorrent, and we gladly avert our eyes 
from a painful spectacle, destitute of the beauty 



LAOCOON. 



which alone could turn our pain into the sweet feel- 
ing of pity for the suffering object. 

The simple opening of the mouth, apart from the 
violent and repulsive contortions it causes in the 
other parts of the face, is a blot on a painting and a 
cavity in a statue productive of the worst possible 
effect. Montfaucon showed little taste when he 
pronounced the bearded face of an old man with 
wide open mouth, to be a Jupiter delivering an 
oracle.^ Cannot a god foretell the ^ture without 
screaming ? Would a more becoming posture of the 
lips cast suspicion upon his prophecies ? Valerius 
cannot make me believe that Ajax was painted 
screaming in the above-mentioned picture of Timan- 
thes.^ Far inferior masters, after the decline of art, 
do not in a single instance make the wildest bar- 
barian open his mouth to scream, even though in 
mortal terror of his enemy's sword.^ 

This softening of the extremity of bodily suffering 
into a lesser degree of pain is apparent in the works 
of many of the old artists. Hercules, writhing in 
his poisoned robe, from the hand of an unknown 
master, was not the Hercules of Sophocles, who 
made the Locrian rocks and the Eubcean promontory 
ring with his horrid cries. He was gloomy rather 
than wild.* The Philoctetes of Pythagoras Leontinus 
seemed to communicate his pain to the beholder, 

1 Antiquit. expl. T. i. p. 50. 

2 See Appendix, note 5. 

' Bellorii Admiranda, Tab. ii, 12. 
* Plinius, lib. xxxiv. sect. 19. 



LAOCOON. 



15 



an effect which would have been destroyed by the 
slightest disfigurement of the features. It may be 
asked how I know that this master made a statue 
of Philoctetes. From a passage in Pliny, which 
ought not to have waited for my emendation, so 
evident is the alteration or mutilation it has under 
gone.^ 

1 See Appendix, note d 



i6 



LAOCOON. 



III. 

But, as already observed, the realm of art has in 
modern times been greatly enlarged. Its imitations 
are allowed to extend over all visible nature, of 
which beauty constitutes but a small part. Truth 
and expression are taken as its first law. As nature 
always sacrifices beauty to higher ends, so should 
the artist subordinate it to his general purpose, and 
not pursue it further than truth and expression allow. 
Enough that truth and expression convert what is 
unsightly in nature into a beauty of art. 

Allowing this idea to pass unchallenged at pres- 
ent for whatever it is worth, are there not other 
independent considerations which should set bounds 
to expression, and prevent the artist from choosing 
for his imitation the culminating point of any action? 

The single moment of time to which art must con- 
fine itself, will lead us, I think, to such considera- 
tions. Since the artist can use but a single moment 
of ever-changing nature, and the painter must fur- 
ther confine his study of this one moment to a single 
point of view, while their works are made not simply 
to be looked at, but to be contemplated long and 
often, evidently the most fruitful moment and the 
most fruitful aspect of that moment must be chosen 
Now that only is fruitful which allows free play to 



LAOCOON. 



17 



the imagination. The more we see the more we 
must be able to imagine ; and the more we imagine, 
the more we must think we see. But no moment in 
the wliole course of an action is so disadvantageous 
in this respect as that of its culmination. There is 
nothing beyond, and to present the uttermost to the 
eye is to bind the wings of Fancy, and compel her, 
since she cannot soar beyond the impression made on 
the senses, to employ herself with feebler images, shun- 
ning as her limit the visible fulness already expressed. 
When, for instance, Laocoon sighs, imagination can 
hear him cry ; but if he cry, imagination can neither 
mount a step higher, nor fall a step lower, without 
seeing him in a more endurable, and therefore less 
interesting, condition. We hear him merely groan- 
ing, or we see him already dead. 

Again, since this single moment receives from art 
an unchanging duration, it should express nothing 
essentially transitory. All phenomena, whose nature 
it is suddenly to break out and as suddenly to dis- 
appear, which can remain as they are but for a 
moment ; all such phenomena, whether agreeable or 
otherwise, acquire through the perpetuity conferred 
upon them by art such an unnatural appearance, 
that the impression they produce becomes weaker 
with every fresh observation, till the whole subject 
at last wearies or disgusts us. La Mettrie, who had 
himself painted and engraved as a second Democ- 
ritus, laughs only the first time we look at him. 
Looked at again, the philosopher becomes a buffoon, 
and his laugh a grimace. So it is with a cry. Pain, 
2 



i8 



LAOCOON. 



which is so violent as to extort a scream, either soon 
abates or it must destroy the sufferer. Again, if a 
man of firmness and endurance cry, he does not do 
so unceasingly, and only this apparent continuity in 
art makes the cry degenerate into womanish weak- 
ness or childish impatience. This, at least, the 
sculptor of the Laocoon had to guard against, 
even had a cry not been an offence against beauty, 
and were suffering without beauty a legitimate sub- 
ject of art. 

Among the old painters Timomachus seems to 
have been the one most fond of choosing extremes 
for his subject. His raving Ajax and infanticide 
Medea were famous. But from the descriptions we 
have of them it is clear that he had rare skill in 
selecting that point which leads the observer to 
imagine the crisis without actually showing it, and 
in uniting with this an appearance not so essentially 
transitory as to become offensive through the con- 
tinuity conferred by art. He did not paint Medea 
at the moment of her actually murdering her chil- 
dren, but just before, when motherly love is still 
struggling with jealousy. We anticipate the result 
and tremble at the idea of soon seeing Medea in her 
unmitigated ferocity, our imagination far outstripping 
any thing the painter could have shown us of that 
terrible moment. For that reason her prolonged 
indecision, so far from displeasing us, makes us wish 
it had been continued in reality. We wish this con- 
flict of passions had never been decided or had 
lasted at least till time and reflection had weakened 



LAOCOON. 



19 



ner fury and secured the victory to the maternal 
sentiments. This wisdom on the part of Timom- 
achus won for him great and frequent praise, and 
raised him far above another artist unknown, who 
was foolish enough to paint Medea at the height of 
her madness, thus giving to this transient access of 
passion a duration that outrages nature. The poet^ 
censures him for this, and says very justly, apostro- 
phizing the picture, " Art thou then for ever thirsting 
for the blood of thy children? Is there always a 
new Jason and a new Creusa to inflame thy rage? 
To the devil with the very picture of thee ! " he adds 
angrily. 

Of Timomachus' treatment of the raving Ajax, 
we can judge by what Philostratus tells us.^ Ajax 
was not represented at the moment when, raging 
among the herds, he captures and slays goats and 
oxen, mistaking them for men. The master showed 
him sitting weary after these crazy deeds of heroism, 
and meditating self-destruction. That was really 
the raving Ajax, not because he is raving at the 
moment, but because we see that he has been raving, 
and with what violence his present reaction of shame 
and despair vividly portrays. We see the force of 
the tempest in the wrecks and corpses with which it 
has strewn the beach. 

1 Philippus, Anthol. lib. iv. cap. 9, ep. 10. 

'Aiei yap dtrpag (3pe(peo)v (l)ovov. t) tlq 'Ir/auv 

AevTEpog, tj TXavKTj rtg ttc/U ool Tcp6<paati\ 
'E/5/5e Kol ev KrjpC) TraidoKTOve . . , 
* Vita Apoll. lib. ii. cap. 22. 



20 



LAOCOON. 



IV. 

A REVIEW of the reasons here alleged for the mod- 
eration observed by the sculptor of the Laocoon m 
the expression of bodily pain, shows them to lie 
wholly in the peculiar object of his art and its 
necessary limitations. Scarce one of them would 
be applicable to poetry. 

Without inquiring here how far the poet can sue 
ceed in describing physical beauty, so much at leasi 
is clear, that since the whole infinite realm of per- 
fection lies open for his imitation, this visible cover- 
ing under which perfection becomes beauty will be 
one of his least significant means of interesting us 
in his characters. Indeed, he often neglects it 
altogether, feeling sure that if his hero have gained 
our favor, his nobler qualities will either so engross 
us that we shall not think of his body, or have so 
won us that, if we think of it, we shall naturally 
attribute to him a beautiful, or, at least, no unsightly 
one. Least of all will he have reference to the eye 
in every detail not especially addressed to the sense 
of sight. When Virgil's Laocoon screams, who stops 
to think that a scream necessitates an open mouth, 
and that an open mouth is ugly ? Enough that 
*' clamores horrendos ad sidera tollit " is fine to the 



LAOCOON. 



21 



ear, no matter what its effect on the eye. Whoever 
requires a beautiful picture has missed the whole 
intention of the poet. 

Further, nothing obliges the poet to concentrate 
his picture into a single moment. He can take up 
every action, if he will, from its origin, and carry it 
through all possible changes to its issue. Every 
change, which would require from the painter a 
separate picture, costs him but a single touch ; a 
touch, perhaps, which, taken by itself, might offend 
the imagination, but which, anticipated, as it has 
been, by what preceded, and softened and atoned for 
by what follows, loses its individual effect in the 
admirable result of the whole. Thus were it really 
unbecoming in a man to cry out in the extremity of 
bodily pain, how can this momentary weakness lower 
in our estimation a character whose virtues have 
previously won our regard ? Virgil's Laocoon cries ; 
but this screaming Laocoon is the same we know 
and love as the most far-seeing of patriots and the 
tenderest of fathers. We do not attribute the cry 
to his character, but solely to his intolerable suffer- 
ings. We hear in it only those, nor could they have 
been made sensible to us in any other way. 

Who blames the poet, then? Rather must we 
acknowledge that he was right in introducing the 
cry, as the sculptor was in omitting it. 

But Virgil's is a narrative poem. Would the 
dramatic poet be included in this justification ? A 
very different impression is made by the mention of 
a cry and the cry itself. The drama, being meant 



22 



LAOCOON. 



for a living picture to the spectator, should there- 
fore perhaps conform more strictly to the laws of 
material painting. In the drama we not only fancy 
we see and hear a crying Philoctetes, we actually 
do see and hear him. The more nearly the actor 
approaches nature, the more sensibly must our eyes 
and ears be offended, as in nature they undoubtedly 
are when we hear such loud and violent expressions 
of pain. Besides, physical suffering in general pos- 
sesses in a less degree than other evils the power of 
arousing sympathy. The imagination cannot take 
hold of it sufficiently for the mere sight to arouse in 
us any corresponding emotion. Sophocles, there- 
fore, might easily have overstepped the bounds not 
only of conventional propriety, but of a propriety 
grounded in the very nature of our sensibilities, in 
letting Philoctetes and Hercules moan and weep, 
scream and roar. The by-standers cannot possibly 
feel such concern for their suffering as these exces- 
sive outbreaks seem to demand. To us spectators 
the lookers-on will seem comparatively cold; and 
yet we cannot but regard their sympathy as the 
measure of our own. Add to this that the actor can 
rarely or never carry the representation of bodily 
pain to the point of illusion, and perhaps the mod- 
ern dramatic poets are rather to be praised than 
blamed for either avoiding this danger altogether or 
skirting it at a safe distance. 

Much would in theory appear unanswerable if the 
achievements of genius had not proved the contrary. 
These observations are not without good foundation, 



LAOCOON. 



23 



yet in spite of them Philoctetes remains one of the 
masterpieces of the stage. For a portion of our 
strictures do not apply to Sophocles, and by a 
disregard of others he has attained to beauties 
which the timid critic, but for this example, would 
never have dreamed of. The following remarks will 
make this apparent : — 

I. The poet has contrived wonderfully to intensify 
and ennoble the idea of physical pain. He chose a 
wound, — for we may consider the details of the 
story dependent upon his choice, in so far as he 
chose the subject for their sake, — he chose, I say, 
a wound and not an inward distemper, because the 
most painful sickness fails to impress us as vividly 
as an outward hurt. The inward sympathetic fire 
which consumed Meleager when his mother sacri- 
ficed him in the brand to her sisterly fury, would 
therefore be less dramatic than a wound. This 
wound, moreover, was a divine punishment. In it a 
fiercer than any natural poison raged unceasingly, 
and at appointed intervals an access of .'ntenser 
pain occurred, always followed by a heavy sleep, 
wherein exhausted nature acquired the needed 
strength for entering again upon the same course of 
pain. Chateaubrun represents him as wounded sim- 
ply by the poisoned arrow of a Trojan. But so 
common an accident gives small scope for extraor- 
dinary results. Every one was exposed to it in the 
old wars ; why were the consequences so terrible 
only in the case of Philoctetes ? A natural poison 
that should work for nine years without destroying 



24 



LAOCOON. 



life is far more improbable than all the fabulous 
miraculous elements with which the Greek decked 
out his tale. 

2. But great and terrible as he made the physical 
sufferings of his hero, he was well aware that these 
alone would not suffice to excite any sensible degree 
of sympathy. He joined with them, therefore, other 
evils, also insufficient of themselves to move us 
greatly, but receiving from this connection a darker 
hue of tragedy, which in turn reacted upon the 
bodily pain. These evils were complete loss of 
human companionship, hunger, and all the discom- 
forts attendant on exposure to an inclement sky 
when thus bereft.^ Imagine a man under these 
circumstances, but in possession of health, strength, 
and industry, and we have a Robinson Crusoe, who 
has little claim to our compassion, though we are by 
no means indifferent to his fate. For we are seldom 
so thoroughly content with human society as not to 
find a certain charm in thinking of the repose to be 
enjoyed without its pale ; more particularly as every 
one flatters himself with the idea of being able 
gradually to dispense altogether with the help of 
others. Again, imagine a man suffering from the 
most painful of incurable maladies, but surrounded 
by kind friends who let him want for nothing, who 
relieve his pain by all the means in their power, and 
are always ready to listen to his groans and com- 
plaints ; we should pity him undoubtedly, but our 
compassion would soon be exhausted. Wvi should 
1 See Appendix, note 7. 



LAOCOON. 



25 



presently shrug our shoulders and counsel patience. 
Only when all these ills unite in one person, when 
to solitude is added physical infirmity, when the sick 
man not only cannot help himself, but has no one to 
help him, and his groans die away on the desert air, 
— then we see a wretch afflicted by all the ills to 
which human nature is exposed, and the very thought 
of putting ourselves in his place for a moment fills 
us with horror. We see before us despair in its 
most dreadful shape, and no compassion is stronger 
or more melting than that connected with the idea of 
despair. Such we feel for Philoctetes, especially at 
the moment when, robbed of his bow, he loses the 
only means left him of supporting his miserable 
existence. Alas for the Frenchman who had not 
the sense to perceive this nor the heart to feel it! 
or, if he had, was petty enough to sacrifice it all to 
the pitiful taste of his nation! Chateaubrun gives 
Philoctetes companionship by introducing a princess 
into his desert island. Neither is she alone, but has 
with her a lady of honor : a thing apparently as 
much needed by the poet as by the princess. All 
the admirable play with the bow he has left out and 
introduced in its stead the play of bright eyes. The 
heroic youth of France would in truth have made 
themselves very merry over a bow and arrows, where- 
as nothing is more serious to them than the dis- 
pleasure of bright eyes. The Greek harrows us with 
fear lest the wretched Philoctetes should be forced 
to remain on the island without his bow, and there 
miserably perish. The Frenchman found a surer 



26 



LAOCOON. 



way to our hearts by making us fear that the son of 
Achilles would have to depart without his princess. 
And this is called by the Parisian critics triumphing 
over the ancients. One of them even proposed to 
name Chateaubrun's piece "La difficulte vaincue." ^ 
3. Turning now from the effect of the whole, let 
us examine the separate scenes wherein Philoctetes 
is no longer the forsaken sufferer, but has hope of 
leaving the dreary island and returning to his king- 
dom. His ills are therefore now confined entirely 
to his painful wound. He moans, he cries, he goes 
through the most hideous contortions. Against this 
scene objections on the score of offended propriety 
may with most reason be brought. They come from 
an Englishman, a man, therefore, not readily to be 
suspected of false delicacy. As already hinted, he 
supports his objections by very good arguments. 
"All feelings and passions," he says, "with which 
others can have little sympathy, become offensive if 
too violently expressed." ^ " It is for the same 
reason that to cry out with bodily pain, how intol- 
erable soever, appears always unmanly and unbe- 
coming. There is, however, a good deal of sympathy 
even with bodily pain. If I see a stroke aimed and 
just ready to fall upon the leg or arm of another 
person, I naturally shriek and draw back my own 
leg or my own arm ; and when it does fall, I feel it 
in some measure and am hurt by it as well as the 

1 Mercure de Fran-.e, April, 1755, p. 177. 

2 "The Theory of Moral Ser.timents," by Adam Smith, 
part i. sect. 2, chap i. (London, 1761.) 



LAOCOON. 



27 



sufferer. My hurl, however, is no doubt excessively 
slight, and, upon that account, if he makes any 
violent outcry, as I cannot go along with him, I 
never fail to despise him." 

Nothing is more deceptive than the laying down 
of general laws for our emotions. Their web is so 
fine and intricate that the most cautious speculation 
is hardly able to take up a single thread and trace it 
through all its interlacings. And if it could, what 
should we gain? There is in nature no single, 
unmixed emotion. With every one spring up a 
thousand others, the most insignificant of which 
essentially modifies the original one, so that excep- 
tion after exception arises until our supposed uni- 
versal law shrinks into a mere personal experience 
in a few individual cases. We despise a man, says 
the Englishman, whom we hear crying out under 
bodily pain. But not always ; not the first time ; 
not when we see that the sufferer does all in his 
power to suppress expressions of pain ; not when 
we know him to be otherwise a man of resolution ; 
still less when we see him giving proof of firmness 
in the midst of his suffering ; when we see that pain, 
though it extort a cry, can extort nothing further ; 
that he submits to a continuance of the anguish 
rather than yield a jot of his opinions or resolves, 
although such a concession would end his woes. 
All this we find in Philoctetes. To the old Greek 
mhid moral greatness consisted in unchanging love 
of friends as well as unfaltering hatred of enemies. 
This greatness Philoctetes preserves through all his 



28 



LAOCOON. 



tortures. His own griefs have not so exhausted his 
tears that he has none to shed over the fate of his 
old friends. His sufferings have not so enervated 
him that, to be free from them, he would forgive his 
enemies and lend himself to their selfish ends. And 
did this man of rock deserve to be despised by the 
Athenians, because the waves, that could not shake 
him, wrung from him a moan ? 

I confess to having little taste for the philosophy 
of Cicero in general, but particularly distasteful to 
me are his views with -regard to the endurance of 
bodily pain set forth in the second book of his Tus- 
culan Disputations. One would suppose, from his 
abhorrence of all expressions of bodily pain, that he 
was training a gladiator. He seems to see in such 
expressions only impatience, not considering that 
they are often wholly involuntary, and that true 
courage can be shown in none but voluntary actions. 
In the play of Sophocles he hears only the cries and 
complaints of Philoctetes and overlooks altogether 
his otherwise resolute bearing. Else what excuse 
for his rhetorical outbreak against the poets ? " They 
would make us effeminate by introducing the bravest 
of their warriors as complaining." They should 
complain, for the theatre is no arena. The con- 
demned or hired gladiator was bound to do and 
bear with grace. No sound of lamentation must be 
heard, no painful contortion seen. His wounds and 
death were to amuse the spectators, and art must 
therefore teach the suppression of all feeling. The 
least manifestation of it might have aroused compas- 



LAOCOON. 



29 



sion, and compassion often excited would soon have 
put an end to the cruel shows. But what is to be 
avoided in the arena is the very object of the tragic 
stage, and here, therefore, demeanor of exactly the 
opposite kind is required. The heroes on the stage 
must show feeling, must express their sufferings, and 
give free course to nature. Any appearance of art 
and constraint represses sympathy. Boxers in bus- 
kin can at most excite our admiration. This term 
may fitly be applied to the so-called Senecan trage- 
dies. I am convinced that the gladiatorial shows 
were the chief reason why the Romans never attained 
even to mediocrity in their tragedies. In the bloody 
amphitheatre the spectators lost all acquaintance 
with nature. A Ctesias might have studied his art 
there, never a Sophocles. The greatest tragic genius, 
accustomed to these artificial death scenes, could 
not help degenerating into bombast and rodomon- 
tade. But as these were incapable of inspiring true 
heroism, so were the complaints of Philoctetes inca- 
pable of producing effeminacy. The complaints 
are human, while the deeds are heroic. Both to- 
gether make the human hero, who is neither effem- 
inate nor callous, but appears first the one and then 
the other, as now Nature sways him, and now prin- 
ciple and duty triumph. This is the highest type 
that wisdom can create and art imitate. 

4. Sophocles, not content with securing his suffer- 
ing Philoctetes against contempt, has even shielded 
him beforehand from such hostile criticism as that 
employed by the Englishman. Though we may not 



30 



LAOCOON. 



always despise a man who cries out under bodily 
pain, we certainly do not feel that degree of sympa- 
thy with him which his cry seems to demand. How 
then should those comport themselves who are about 
this screaming Philoctetes ? Should they appear to 
be greatly moved? That were contrary to nature. 
Should they seem as cold and embarrassed as the 
by-stander on such occasions is apt actually to be ? 
Such a want of harmony would offend the spectator. 
Sophocles, as I have said, anticipated this and guarded 
against it in the following way, — he gave to each of 
the by-standers a subject of personal interest. They 
are not solely occupied with Philoctetes and his cries. 
The attention of the spectator, therefore, is directed 
to the change wrought in each person's own views 
and designs by the sympathy excited in him, whether 
strong or weak, not to the disproportion between the 
sympathy itself and its exciting cause. Neoptolemus 
and the chorus have deceived the unhappy Philoc- 
tetes, and while perceiving the despair they are 
bringing upon him they behold him overpowered by 
one of his accesses of pain. Even should this arouse 
no great degree of sympathy in them, it must at 
least lead them to self-examination and prevent their 
increasing by treachery a misery which they cannot 
but respect. This the spectator looks for ; nor is 
his expectation disappointed by the magnanimous 
Neoptolemus. Had Philoctetes been master of his 
suffering, Neoptolemus would have persevered in his 
deceit. Philoctetes, deprived by pain of all power 
of dissimulation, necessary as that seems to pre- 



LAOCOON. 



31 



vent his future travelling companion from repenting 
too soon of his promise to take him with him, Phil- 
octetes, by his naturalness, recalls Neoptolemus to 
nature. The conversion is admirable, and all the 
more affecting for being brought about by unaided 
human nature. The Frenchman had recourse again 
here to the bright eyes. De mes deguisemens que 
pen serait Sophie ? " says the son of Achilles. But I 
will think no more of this parody. 

Sophocles, in " The Trachiniae," makes use of this 
same expedient of combining in the by-standers an- 
other emotion with the compassion excited by a cry 
of physical pain. The pain of Hercules has no 
enervating effect, but drives him to madness. He 
thirsts for vengeance, and, in his frenzy, has already 
seized upon Lichas and dashed him in pieces against 
the rock. The chorus is composed of women who 
are naturally overpowered with fear and horror. 
Their terror, and the doubt whether a god will 
hasten to Hercules' relief, or whether he will fall 
a victim to his misfortune, make the chief interest 
of the piece with but a slight tinge of compassion. 
As soon as the issue has been decided by the oracle, 
Hercules grows calm, and all other feelings are lost 
in our admiration of his final decision. But we must 
not forget, when comparing the suffering Hercules 
with the suffering Philoctetes, that one is a demi-god, 
the other but a man. The man is never ashamed to 
complain ; but the demi-god feels shame that his 
mortal part has so far triumphed over his immortal, 



32 



LAOCOON 



that he should weep and groan like a girl.* We 
moderns do not believe in demi-gods, but require 
our most insignificant hero to feel and act like one. 

That an actor can imitate the cries and convul- 
sions of pain so closely as to produce illusion, I 
neither deny nor affirm. If our actors cannot, I 
should want to know whether Garrick found it 
equally impossible ; and, if he could not succeed, I 
should still have the right to assume a degree of 
perfection in the acting and declamation of the 
ancients of which we of to-day can form no idea. 

1 Trach. v. 1088, 1089 : 

HiOTLQ uare napf&evof 
Bififwxa kXouuv . . . 



LAOCOON. 



33 



V. 

Some critics of antiquity argue that the Laocoon, 
though a work of Greek art, must date from the 
time of the emperors, because it was copied from the 
Laocoon of Virgil. Of the older scholars who have 
held this opinion I will mention only Bartolomaeus 
Martiani,^ and of the moderns, Montfaucon.^ They 
doubtless found such remarkable agreement between 
the work of art and the poem that they could not 
believe the same circumstances, by no means self- 
suggesting ones, should have occurred by accident 
to both sculptor and poet. The question then 
arose to whom the honor of invention belonged, and 
they assumed the probabilities to be decidedly in 
favor of the poet. 

They appear, however, to have forgotten that a 
third alternative is possible. The artist may not 
have copied the poet any more than the poet the 

1 Topographiae Urbis Romae, lib. iv. cap. 14. Et quan- 
quam hi (Agesander et Polydorus et Athenodorus Rhodii) 
ex Virgilii descriptione statuam banc formavisse videntur, &c. 

2 Suppl. aux Ant. Expliq. T. i. p. 242. II semble qu'Age- 
sandre, Polydore, et Athenodore, qui en furent les ouvriers, 
aient travaille comme a I'envie, pour laisser un monument qui 
r^pondait k I'incomparable description qu'a fait Virgile de 
Laocoon, &c. 

3 



34 



LAOCOON. 



artist; but both perhaps drew their material from 
some older source, which, Macrobius suggests, might 
have been Pisander.^ For, while the works of this 
Greek writer were still in existence, the fact was 
familiar to every schoolboy that the Roman poet's 
whole second book, the entire conquest and destruc- 
tion of Troy, was not so much imitated as literally 
translated from the older writer. If then Pisander 
was Virgil's predecessor in the history of Laocoon 
also, the Greek artists did not need to draw their 
material from a Latin poet, and this theory of the 
date of the group loses its support. 

If I were forced to maintain the opinion of Mar- 
tiani and Montfaucon, I should escape from the 
difficulty in this way. Pisander's poems are lost, 
and we can never know with certainty how he told 
the story of Laocoon. Probably, however, he nar- 
rated it with the same attendant circumstances of 
which we still find traces in the Greek authors. 
Now these do not in the least agree with the version 
of Virgil, who must have recast the Greek tradition 
to suit himself. The fate of Laocoon, as he tells it, 
is quite his own invention, so that the artists, if their 
representation harmonize with his, may fairly be 
supposed to have lived after his time, and have used 
his description as their model. 

Quintus Calaber indeed, like Virgil, makes Lao- 
coon express suspicion of the wooden horse ; but 
the wrath of Minerva, which he thereby incurs, is 
very differently manifested. As the Trojan utters 
1 See Appendix, note 8. 



LAOCOON. 



35 



his warning, the earth trembles beneath him, pain 
and terror fall upon him ; a burning pain rages in 
his eyes ; his brain gives way ; he raves j he becomes 
blind. After his blindness, since he still continues 
to advise the burning of the wooden horse, Minerva 
sends two terrible dragons, which, however, attack 
only Laocoon's children. In vain they stretch out 
their hands to their father. The poor blind man 
cannot help them. They are torn and mangled, 
and the serpents glide away into the ground, doing 
no injury to Laocoon himself. That this was not 
peculiar to Quintus,-^ but must have been generally 
accepted, appears from a passage in Lycophron, 
where these serpents receive the name of "child- 
eaters." ^ 

But if this circumstance were generally accepted 
among the Greeks, Greek artists would hardly have 
ventured to depart from it. Or, if they made vari- 
ations, these would not be likely to be the same as 
those of a Roman poet, had they not known him 
and perhaps been especially commissioned to use 
him as their model. We must insist on this point, 
I think, if we would uphold Martiani and Mont- 
faucon. Virgil is the first and only one^ who repre- 
sents both father and children as devoured by the 
serpents ; the sculptors have done this also, although, 
as Greeks, they should not; probably, therefore, 
they did it in consequence of Virgil's example. 

1 Paralip. lib. xii. v. 398-408. 

2 Or rather serpent, for Lycophron mentions but one s 

Ka2 Tratdo(3po)Tog nopKecjg vijaovQ dLnTioQ' 
' See Appendix, note 9. 



36 



LAOCOON. 



I am well aware that this probability falls far 
short of historical certainty. But since I mean to 
draw no historical conclusions from it, we may be 
allowed to use it as an hypothesis on which to base 
our remarks. Let us suppose, then, that the sculptors 
used Virgil as their model, and see in what way they 
would have copied him. The cry has been already 
discussed. A further comparison may perhaps lead 
to not less instructive results. 

The idea of coiling the murderous serpents about 
both father and sons, tying them thus into one 
knot, is certainly a very happy one, and betrays 
great picturesqueness of fancy. Whose was it } the 
poet's or the artist's ? Montfaucon thinks it is not 
to be found in the poem ;^ but, in my opinion, he 
has not read the passage with sufficient care. 

lUi agmine certo 
Laocoonta petunt, et primum parva duorum 
Corpora natorum serpens amplexus uterque 
Implicat et miseros morsu depascitur artus. 
Post ipsum, auxilio subeuntem et tela ferentem, 
Corripiunt spirisque ligant ingentibus.2 

The poet has described the serpents as being of 
a wonderful length. They have wound their coils 
about the boys and seize the father also (corripiunt) 

1 See Appendix, note lo. 

2 Their destined way they take, 
And to Laocoon and his children make ; 

And first around the tender boys they wind, 

Then with their sharpened fangs their limbs and bodies grind. 

The wretched father, running to their aid 

With pious haste, but vain, they next invade. — Dryden. 



1.AOCOON. 



37 



as he comes to their aid. Owing to their great 
length they could not in an instant have disengaged 
themselves from the boys. There must therefore 
have been a moment when the heads and forward 
parts of the bodies had attacked the father while the 
boys were still held imprisoned in the hindmost 
coils. Such a moment is unavoidable in the prog- 
ress of the poetic picture; and the poet makes it 
abundantly manifest, though that was not the time 
to describe it in detail. A passage in Doijatus^ 
seems to prove that the old commentators were con- 
scious of it ; and there was still less likelihood of its 
escaping the notice of artists whose trained eye was 
quick to perceive any thing that could be turned to 
their advantage. 

The poet carefully leaves Laocoon's arms free 
that he may have the full use of his hands. 

Ille simul manibus tendit divellere nodos.2 
In this point the artist must necessarily have fol- 
lowed him ; for nothing contributes more to the 
expression of life and motion than the action of 
the hands. In representations of passion, espe- 
cially, the most speaking countenance is ineffective 
without it. Arms fastened close to the body by the 
serpents' coils would have made the whole group 
cold and dead. We consequently see them in full 
activity, both in the main figure and the lesser ones, 
and most active where for the moment the pain is 
sharpest. 

1 See Appendix, note ii. 

* With both his hands he labors at the knots. 



38 



LAOCOON. 



With the exception of this freedom of the arms, 
there was, however, nothing in the poet's manner of 
coiling the serpents which could be turned to account 
by the artists. Virgil winds them twice round the 
body and twice round the neck of Laocoon, and lets 
their heads tower high above him. 

Bis medium amplexi, bis collo squamea circum 
Terga dati, superant capita et cervicibus altis.l 

This description satisfies our imagination completely. 
The noblest parts of the body are compressed to 
suffocation, and the poison is aimed directly at the 
face. It furnished, however, no picture for the artist, 
who would show the physical effects of the poison 
and the pain. To render these conspicuous, the 
nobler parts of the body must be left as free as pos- 
sible, subjected to no outward pressure which would 
change and weaken the play of the suffering nerves 
and laboring muscles. The double coils would have 
concealed the whole trunk and rendered invisible 
that most expressive contraction of the abdomen. 
What of the body would be distinguishable above 
or below or between the coils would have been 
swollen and compressed, not by inward pain but by 
outward violence. So many rings about the neck 
would have destroyed the pyramidal shape of the 
group which is now pleasing to the eye, while the 
pointed heads of the serpents projecting far above 

1 Twice round his waist their winding volumes rolled, 
And twice about his gasping throat they fold. 
The priest thus doubly choked, —their crests divide, 
And towering o'er his head in triumph ride. — Dryden. 



LAOCOON. 



39 



this huge mass, would have been such a violation of 
the rules of proportion that the effect of the whole 
would have been made repulsive in the extreme. 
There have been designers so devoid of perception 
as to follow the poet implicitly. One example of 
the hideous result may be found among the illustra- 
tions by Francis Cleyn.^ The old sculptors saw at 
a glance that their art required a totally different 
treatment. They transferred all the coils from the 
trunk and neck to the thighs and feet, parts which 
might be concealed and compressed without injury 
to the expression. By this means they also conveyed 
the idea of arrested flight, and a certain immobility 
very favorable to the arbitrary continuance of one 
posture. 

I know not how it happens that the critics have 
passed over in silence this marked difference between 
the coils in the marble and in the poem. It reveals 
the wisdom of the artist quite as much as another 
difference which they all comment upon, though 
rather by way of excuse than of praise, — the dif- 
ference in the dress. Virgil's Laocoon is in his 
priestly robes, while in the group he, as well as his 
two sons, appears completely naked. Some persons, 
it is said, find a great incongruity in the fact that a 
king's son, a priest, should be represented naked 
when offering a sacrifice. To this the critics answer 
in all seriousness that it is, to be sure, a violation 
of usage but that the artists were driven to it from 
inability to give their figures suitable clothing. Sculp* 
1 See Appendix, note 12. 



LAOCOON. 



tuie, they say, cannot imitate stuffs. Thick folds 
produce a bad effect. Of two evils they have there- 
fore chosen the lesser, and preferred to offend against 
truth rather than be necessarily faulty in drapery.^ 
The old artists might have laughed at the objection, 
but I know not what they would have said to this 
manner of answering it. No greater insult could be 
paid to art. Suppose sculpture could imitate differ- 
ent textures as well as painting, would Laocoon 
necessarily have been draped? Should we lose 
nothing by drapery ? Has a garment, the work of 
slavish hands, as much beauty as an organized body, 
the work of eternal wisdom ? Does the imitation of 
the one require the same skill, involve the same 
merit, bring the same honor as the imitation of the 
other ? Do our eyes require but to be deceived, and 
is it a matter of indifference to them with what they 
are deceived ? 

In poetry a robe is no robe. It conceals nothing. 
Our imagination sees through it in every part. 
Whether Virgil's Laocoon be clothed or not, the 
agony in every fibre of his body is equally visible. 
The brow is bound with the priestly fillet, but not 
concealed. Nay, so far from being a hinderance, the 
fillet rather strengthens our impression of the suf- 
ferer's agony. 

Perfusus sanie vittas atroque veneno.2 
His priestly dignity avails him nothing. The very 

1 See Appendix, note 13. 

2 His holy fillets the blue venom blots. — Dryden. 



LAOCOON. 



badge of it, which wins him universal consideration 
and respect, is saturated and desecrated with the 
poisonous slaver. 

But this subordinate idea the artist had to sacri- 
fice to the general effect. Had he retained even the 
fillet, his work would have lost in expression from 
the partial concealment of the brow which is the 
seat of expression. As in the case of the cry he 
sacrificed expression to beauty, he here sacrificed 
conventionality to expression. Conventionality, in- 
deed, was held of small account among the ancients. 
They felt that art, in the attainment of beauty, its true 
end, could dispense with conventionalities altogether. 
Necessity invented clothes, but what has art to do 
with necessity? There is a beauty of drapery, I 
admit ; but it is nothing as compared with the beauty 
of the human form. Will he who can attain to the 
greater rest content with the lesser.? I fear that 
the most accomplished master in drapery, by his 
very dexterity, proves his weakness. 



42 



LAOCOON. 



VI. 

My supposition that the artists imitated the poet is 
no disparagement to them. On the contrary the 
manner of their imitation reflects the greatest credit 
on their wisdom. They followed the poet without suf- 
fering him in the smallest particular to mislead them. 
A model was set them, but the task of transferring it 
from one art into another gave them abundant oppor- 
tunity for independent thought. The originality 
manifested in their deviations from the model proves 
them to have been no less great in their art than the 
poet was in his. 

Now, reversing the matter, I will suppose the poet 
to be working after the model set him by the artists. 
This is a supposition maintained by various scholars.^ 
I know of no historical arguments in favor of their 
opinion. The work appeared to them of such 
exceeding beauty that they could not believe it to be 
of comparatively recent date. It must have been 
made when art was at its perfection, because it was 
worthy of that period. 

We have seen that, admirable as Virgil's picture 
is, there are yet traits in it unavailable for the 

1 See Appendix, note 14. 



LAOCOON. 



43 



artist. The saying therefore requires some modifi- 
cation, that a good poetical description must make a 
good picture, and that a poet describes well only 
in so far as his details may be used by the artist. 
Even without the proof furnished by examples, we 
should be inclined to predicate such limitation from 
a consideration of the wider sphere of poetry, the 
infinite range of our imagination, and the intangi- 
bility of its images. These may stand side by side 
in the greatest number and variety without conceal- 
ment or detriment to any, just as the objects them- 
selves or their natural symbols would in the narrow 
limits of time or space. 

But if the smaller cannot contain the greater it 
can be contained in the greater. In other words, if 
not every trait employed by the descriptive poet can 
produce an equally good effect on canvas or in 
marble, can every trait of the artist be equally effec- 
tive in the work of the poet ? Undoubtedly ; for 
what pleases us in a work of art pleases not the eye, 
but the imagination through the eye. The same 
picture, whether presented to the imagination by 
arbitrary or natural signs, must always give us a 
similar pleasure, though not always in the same 
degree. 

But even granting this, I confess that the idea of 
Virgil's having imitated the artists is more incon- 
ceivable to me than the contrary hypothesis. If 
the artists copied the poet, I can account for all 
their deviations. Differences would necessarily have 
arisen, because many traits employed by him with 



44 



LAOCOON. 



good effect would in their work have been objection- 
able. But why such deviations in the poet ? Would 
he not have given us an admirable picture by copy- 
ing the group faithfully in every particular ? ^ 

I can perfectly understand how his fancy, working 
independently, should have suggested to him this 
and that feature, but I see no reason why his judg- 
ment should have thought it necessary to transform 
the beauties that were before his eyes into these 
differing ones. 

It even seems to me that, had Virgil used this 
group as his model, he could hardly have contented 
himself with leaving the general embrace of the 
three bodies within the serpents' folds to be thus 
guessed at. The impression upon his eye would 
have been so vivid and admirable, that he could 
not have failed to give the position greater promi- 
nence in his description. As I have said, that was 
not the time to dwell upon its details ; but the ad- 
dition of a single word might have put a decisive 
emphasis upon it, even in the shadow in which the 
poet was' constrained to leave it. What the artist 
could present without that word, the poet would not 
have failed to express by it, had the work of art 
been before him. 

The artist had imperative reasons for not allowing 
the sufferings of his Laocoon to break out into cries. 
But if the poet had had before him in the marble 
this touching union of pain with beauty, he would 
certainly have been under no necessity of disregird- 

1 See Appendix, note 15. 



LAOCOON. 



45 



mg the idea of manly dignity and magnanimous 
patience arising from it and making his Laocoon 
suddenly startle us with that terrible cry. Richard- 
son says that Virgil's Laocoon needed to scream, 
because the poet's object was not so much to excite 
compassion for him as to arouse fear and horror 
among the Trojans. This I am ready to grant, 
although Richardson appears not to have considered 
that the poet is not giving the description in his own 
person, but puts it into the mouth of ^neas, who, 
in his narration to Dido, spared no pains to arouse 
her compassion. The cry, however, is not what 
surprises me, but the absence of all intermediate 
stages of emotion, which the marble could not have 
failed to suggest to the poet if, as we are supposing, 
he had used that as his model. Richardson goes on 
to say, that the story of Laocoon was meant only as 
an introduction to the pathetic description of the 
final destruction of Troy, and that the poet was 
therefore anxious not to divert to the misfortunes of 
a private citizen the attention which should be con- 
centrated on the last dreadful night of a great city.^ 
But this is a painter's point of view, and here inad- 
missible. In the poem, the fate of Laocoon and the 
destruction of the city do not stand side by side as 
in a picture. They form no single whole to be em- 
braced at one glance, in which case alone there would 
have been danger of having the eye more attracted 
by the Laocoon than by the burning city. The two 
descriptions succeed each other, and I fail to see 

1 See Appendix, note 16. 



46 



LAOCOON. 



how the deepest emotion produced by the first could 
prejudice the one that follows. Any want of effect 
in the second must be owing to its inherent want of 
pathos. 

Still less reason would the poet have had for alter- 
ing the serpents' coils. In the marble they occupy 
the hands and encumber the feet, an arrangement 
not less impressive to the imagination than satisfac- 
tory to the eye. The picture is so distinct and clear 
that words can scarcely make it plainer than natural 
signs. 

Micat alter et ipsum 
Laocoonta petit, totumque infraque supraque 
Implicat et rabido tandem ferit ilia morsu. 

At serpens lapsu crebro redeunte subintrat 
Lubricus, intortoque ligat genua infima nodo. 

These lines are by Sadolet. They would doubt- 
less have come with greater picturesqueness from 
Virgil, had his fancy been fired by the visible model. 
Under those circumstances he would certainly have 
written better lines than those we now have of 
him. 

Bis medium amplexi, bis collo squamea circum 
Terga dati, superant capite et cervicibus altis. 

These details satisfy the imagination, it is true ; but 
not if we dwell upon them and try to bring them 
distinctly before us. We must look now at the 
serpents, and now at Laocoon. The moment we 
try to combine them into one picture, the grouping 



LAOCOON. 



47 



begins to displease, and appear in the highest degree 
unpicturesque. 

But these deviations from his supposed model, 
even if not unfortunate, were entirely arbitrary. 
Imitation is intended to produce likeness, but how 
can likeness result from needless changes? Such 
changes rather show that the intention was not to 
produce likeness, consequently that there has been 
no imitation. 

Perhaps not of the whole, some may urge, but of 
certain parts. Good ; but what are the parts so 
exactly corresponding in the marble and in the 
poem, that the poet might seem to have borrowed 
them from the sculptor ? The father, the children, 
and the serpents, both poet and sculptor received 
from history. Except what is traditional in both, 
they agree in nothing but the single circumstance 
that father and sons are bound by the serpents' coils 
into a single knot. But this arose from the new 
version, according to which father and sons were 
involved in a common destruction, — a version, as 
already shown, to be attributed rather to Virgil, 
since the Greek traditions tell the story differently. 
If, then, there should have been any imitation here, 
it is more likely to have been on the side of the 
artist than of the poet. In all other respects their 
representations differ, but in such a way that the 
deviations, if made by the artist, are perfectly con- 
sistent with an intention to copy the poet, being 
such as the sphere and limitations of his art would 
impose on him. They are, on tne contrary, so 



48 LAOCOON. 

many arguments against the supposed imitation of 
the sculptor by the poet. Those who, in the face 
of these objections, still maintain this supposition, 
can only mean that the group is older than the 
poem. 



LAOCOON. 



49 



VII. 

When we speak of an artist as imitating a poet or a 
poet an artist, we may mean one of two things, — 
either that one makes the work of the other his 
actual model, or that the same original is before 
them both, and one borrows from the other the 
manner of copying it. 

When Virgil describes the shield of ^neas, his 
imitation of the artist who made the shield is of the 
former kind. The work of art, not what it repre- 
sents, is his model. Even if he describe the devices 
upon it they are described as part of the shield, not 
as independently existing objects. Had Virgil, on 
the other hand, copied the group of the Laocoon, 
this would have been an imitation of the second 
kind. He would then have been copying, not the 
actual group, but what the group represents, and 
would have borrowed from the marble only the 
details of his copy. 

In imitations of the first kind the poet is an origina- 
tor, in those of the second a copyist. The first is 
part of the universal imitation which constitutes the 
. very essence of his art, and his work is that of a 
genius, whether his model be nature or the product 
of other arts. The second degrades him utterly, 



LAOCOON. 



Instead of the thing itself, he imitates its imitations, 
and gives us a lifeless reflection of another's genius 
for original touches of his own. 

In the by no means rare cases where poet and 
artist must study their common original from the 
same point of view, their copies cannot but coincide 
in many respects, although there may have been no 
manner of imitation or emulation between them. 
These coincidences among contemporaneous artists 
and poets may lead to mutual illustrations of things 
no longer present to us. But to try to help out these 
illustrations by tracing design where was only chance, 
and especially by attributing to the poet at every 
detail a reference to this statue or that picture, is 
doing him very doubtful service. Nor is the reader 
a gainer by a process which renders the beautiful 
passages perfectly intelligible, no doubt, but at the 
sacrifice of all their life. 

This is the design and the mistake of a famous 
English work by the Rev. Mr. Spence, entitled, 
" Polymetis ; or, An inquiry concerning the agree- 
ment between the works of the Roman poets and 
the remains of the ancient artists, being an attempt 
to illustrate them mutually from one another."^ 
Spence has brought to his work great classical 
learning and a thorough knowledge of the surviving 
works of ancient art. His design of using these as 
means to explain the Roman poets, and making the 
poets in turn throw light on works of art hitherto 

1 The first edition was issued in 1747; the second, 1755. 
Selections by N. Tindal have been printed more than once. 



LAOCOON. 



51 



imperfectly understood, has been in many instances 
happily accomplished. But I nevertheless maintain 
that to every reader of taste his book must be intol- 
erable. 

When Valerius Flaccus describes the winged thun- 
derbolts on the shields of the Roman soldiers, — 

Nec primus radios, miles Romane, corusci 
Fulminis et rutilas scutis diffuderis alas, 

the description is naturally made more intelligible to 
me by seeing the representation of such a shield on 
an ancient monument.^ It is possible that the old 
armorers represented Mars upon helmets and shields 
in the same hovering attitude that Addison thought 
he saw him in with Rhea on an ancient coin,^ and 
that Juvenal had such a helmet or shield in mind in 
that allusion of his which, till Addison, had been a 
puzzle to all commentators. 

The passage in Ovid where the wearied Cephalus 
invokes Aura, the cooling zephyr, — 

" Aura venias 

Meque juves, intresque sinus, gratissima, nostros," 

and his Procris takes this Aura for the name of a 
rival, — this passage, I confess, seems to me more 
natural when I see that the ancients in their works 
of art personified the gentle breezes, and, under the 
name Aurae, worshipped certain female sylphs.^ 

I acknowledge that when Juvenal compares an 
idle patrician to a Hermes-column, we should hardly 

1 Val. Flaccus, lib. vi. v. 55, 56. Polymetis, dial. vi. p. 5a 

2 See Appendix, note 17. 3 See Appendix, note 18. 



52 



LAOCOON. 



perceive the point of the comparison unless we had 
seen such a column and knew it to be a poorly cut 
pillar, bearing the head, or at most the trunk, of the 
god, and, owing to the want of hands and feet, sug- 
gesting the idea of inactivity.-^ 

Illustrations of this kind are not to be despised, 
though neither always necessary nor always conclu- 
sive. Either the poet regarded the work of art not 
as a copy but as an independent original, or both 
artist and poet were embodying certain accepted 
ideas. Their representations would necessarily have 
many points of resemblance, which serve as so 
many proofs of the universality of the ideas. 

But when Tibullus describes Apollo as he appeared 
to him in a dream, — the fairest of youths, his 
temples wreathed with the chaste laurel, Syrian 
odors breathing from his golden hair that falls in 
ripples over his long neck, his whole body as pink 
and white as the cheek of the bride when led to her 
bridegroom, — why need these traits have been bor- 
rowed from famous old pictures ? Echion's " nova 
nupta verecundia notabilis " may have been in Rome 
and been copied thousands of times : did that prove 
virgin modesty itself to have vanished from the 
world? Since the painter saw it, was no poet to see 
it more save in the painter's imitation ? ^ Or when 
another poet speaks of Vulcan as wearied and his 
face reddened by the forge, did he need a picture to 

1 See Appendix, note 19. 

2 Tibullus, Eleg. 4, lib. iii. Polymetis, diaL viii 



LAOCOON. 



53 



teach him that labor wearies and heat reddeiic?* 
Or when Lucretius describes the alternations of the 
seasons and brings them before us in the order of 
nature, with their whole train of effects on earth 
and air, was Lucretius the creature of a day ? had 
he lived through no entire year and seen its changes, 
that he must needs have taken his description from 
a procession of statues representing the seasons? 
Did he need to learn from statues the old poetic 
device of making actual beings out of such abstrac- 
tions?^ Or Virgil's "pontem indignatus Araxes," 
that admirable poetic picture of a river overflowing 
its banks and tearing down the bridge that spans it, — 
do we not destroy all its beauty by making it simply a 
reference to some work of art, wherein the river god 
was represented as actually demolishing a bridge ? ^ 
What do we want of such illustrations which banish 
the poet from his own clearest lines to give us in 
his place the reflection of some artist's fancy? 

I regret that this tasteless conceit of substituting 
for the creations of the poet's own imagination a 
familiarity with those of others should have ren- 
dered a book, so useful as the Polymetis might have 
been made, as offensive as the feeblest commentaries 
of the shallowest quibblers, and far more deroga- 
tory to the classic authors. Still more do I regret 
that Addison should in this respect have been the 
predecessor of Spence, and, in his praiseworthy 

1 Statius, lib. i. Sylv. 5, v. 8. Polymetis, dial. viii. 

^ See Appendix, note 20. 

* iEneid, lib. viii. 725. Polymetis, dial. xiv. 



54 



LAOCOON. 



desire to make the old works of art serve as inter- 
preters, have failed to discriminate between those 
cases where imitation of the artist would be becom- 
ing in the poet, and those where it would be degrad- 
ing to him.^ 

1 In various passages of his Travels [Remarks on Italy^ 
and his Dialogues on Ancient Medals. 



LAOCOON. 



55 



VIII. 

Spence has the strangest notions of the resemblance 
between painting and poetry. He believes the two 
arts to have been so closely connected among the 
ancients that they always went hand in hand, the 
poet never losing sight of the painter, nor the pain- 
ter of the poet. That poetry has the wider sphere, 
that beauties are within her reach which painting can 
never attain, that she may often see reason to prefer 
unpicturesque beauties to picturesque ones, — these 
things seem never to have occurred to him. The 
slightest difference, therefore, between the old poets 
and artists throws him into an embarrassment from 
which it taxes all his ingenuity to escape. 

The poets generally gave Bacchus horns. Spence 
is therefore surprised that we seldom see these 
appendages on his statues.-^ He suggests one rea- 
son and another ; now the ignorance of the anti: 
quarians, and again "the smallness of the horns 
themselves, which were very likely to be hid under 
the crown of grapes or ivy which is almost a con- 
stant ornament of the head of Bacchus." He goes 
all round the true cause without ever suspecting it. 
The horns of Bacchus were not a natural growth 

1 Polymetis, dial. ix. 



56 



LAOCOON. 



like those of fauns and satyrs. They were orna- 
ments which he could assume or lay aside at 
pleasure. 

Tibi, cum sine cornibus adstas, 
Virgineum caput est, . . . 

says Ovid in his solemn invocation to Bacchus.^ 
He could therefore show himself without horns, and 
did, in fact, thus show himself when he wished to 
appear in his virgin beauty. In this form artists 
would choose to represent him, and necessarily 
omitted all disagreeable accompaniments. Horns 
fastened to the diadem, as we see them on a head in 
the royal museum in Berlin,^ would have been a 
cumbersome appendage, as would also the diadem 
itself, concealing the beautiful brow. For this rea- 
son the diadem appears as rarely as the horns on 
the statues of Bacchus, although, as its inventor, he 
is often crowned with it by the poets. In poetry 
both horns and diadem served as subtle allusions to 
the deeds and character of the god : in a picture or 
statue they would hxve stood in the way of greater 
beauties. If Bacchus, as I believe, received the 
name of Biformis, JifioQcpog, from having an aspect 
of beauty as well as of terror, the artists would 
naturally have chosen the shape best adapted to the 
object of their art. 

In the Roman poets Minerva and Juno often 

1 Metamorph. lib. iv. 19, 20. When thou appearest un- 
horned, thy head is as the head of a virgin. 

2 Begeri Thes. Brandenb. vol. iii. p. 242. 



LAOCOON. 



57 



hurl the thunderbolt. Why are they not so reprC' 
sented in art? asks Spence.^ He answers, "This 
power was the privilege of these two goddesses, the 
reason of which was, perhaps, first learnt in the Sam- 
othracian mysteries. But since, among the ancient 
Romans, artists were considered as of inferior rank, 
and therefore rarely initiated into them, they would 
doubtless know nothing of them ; and what they 
knew not of they clearly could not represent." I 
should like to ask Spence whether these common 
people were working independently, or under the 
orders of superiors who might be initiated into the 
mysteries ; whether the artists occupied such a de- 
graded position among the Greeks ; whether the 
Roman artists were not for the most part Greeks by 
birth ; and so on. 

Statins and Valerius Flaccus describe an angry 
Venus with such terrible features that we should 
take her at the moment for a fury rather than for the 
goddess of love. Spence searches in vain for such 
a Venus among the works of ancient art. What is 
his conclusion? That more is allowed to the poet 
than to the sculptor and painter? That should 
have been his inference. But he has once for all 
established as a general rule that " scarce any thing 
can be good in a poetical description which would 
appear absurd if represented in a statue or picture."^ 
Consequently the poets must be wrong. " Statins 
and Valerius Flaccus belong to an age when Roman 
poetry was already in its decline. In this very 

iPoljrmetis, dial. vi. 2 Polymetis, dial. xx. 



58 



LAOCOON. 



passage they display their bad judgment and cor- 
rupted taste. Among the poets of a better age such 
a repudiation of the laws of artistic expression will 
never be found." ^ 

Such criticism shows small power of discrimina- 
tion. I do not propose to undertake the defence of 
either Statins or Valerius, but will simply make a 
general remark. The gods and other spiritual 
beings represented by the artist are not precisely the 
same as those introduced by the poet. To the artist 
they are personified abstractions which must always 
be characterized in the same way, or we fail to 
recognize them. In poetry, on the contrary, they 
are real beings, acting and working, and possessing, 
besides their general character, qualities and passions 
which may upon occasion take precedence. Venus 
is to the sculptor simply love. He must therefore 
endow her with all the modest beauty, all the tender 
charms, which, as delighting us in the beloved object, 
go to make up our abstract idea of love. The least 
departure from this ideal prevents our recognizing 
her image. Beauty distinguished more by majesty 
than modesty is no longer Venus but Juno. Charms 
commanding and manly rather than tender, give 
us, instead of a Venus, a Minerva. A Venus 
all wrath, a Venus urged by revenge and rage, is 
to the sculptor a contradiction in terms. For love, 
as love, never is angry, never avenges itself. To 
the poet, Venus is love also, but she is the god- 
dess of love, who has her own individuality outside 

1 Polymetis, dial, vil 



LAOCOON. 



59 



of this oi^e characteristic, and can therefore be 
actuated by aversion as well as affection. What 
wonder, then, that in poetry she blazes into anger and 
rage, especially under the provocation of insulted 
love ? 

The artist, indeed, like the poet, may, in works 
composed of several figures, introduce Venus or an} 
other deity, not simply by her one characteristic, but 
as a living, acting being. But the actions, if not the 
direct results of her character, must not be at vari- 
ance with it. Venus delivering to her son the 
armor of the gods is a subject equally suitable to 
artist and poet. For here she can be endowed with 
all the grace and beauty befitting the goddess of 
love. Such treatment will be of advantage as help- 
ing us the more easily to recognize her. But when 
Venus, intent on revenging herself on her con- 
temners, the men of Lemnos, wild, in colossal shape, 
with cheeks inflamed and dishevelled hair, seizes the 
torch, and, wrapping a black robe about her, flies 
downward on the storm-cloud, — that is no moment 
for the painter, because he has no means of making 
us recognize her. The poet alone has the privilege 
of availing himself of it. He can unite it so closely 
with some other moment when the goddess is the 
true Venus, that we do not in the fury forget the 
goddess of love. Flaccus does this, — 

Neque enim alma videri 
Jam tumet ; aut tereti crinem subnectitur auro, 
Sidereos diffusa sinus. Eadem effera et ingens 



6o 



LAOCOON. 



Et maculis suffecta genas ; pinumque sonantem 
Virginibus Stygiis, nigramque simillima pallam.* 

And Statius also, — 

Ilia Paphon veterem centumque altaria Hnquens, 
Nec vultu nec crine prior, solvisse jugalem 
Ceston, et Idalias procul ablegasse volucres 
Fertur. Erant certe, media qui noctis in umbra 
Divam, alios ignes majoraque tela gerentem, 
Tartarias inter thalamis volitasse sorores 
Vulgarent : utque implicitis arcana domorum 
Anguibus, et saeva formidine cuncta replerit 
Limina.2 

Or, we may say, the poet alone possesses the art 
of so combining negative with positive traits as to 
unite two appearances in one. No longer now the 
tender Venus, her hair no more confined with golden 
clasps, no azure draperies floating about her, with- 
out her girdle, armed with other flames and larger 

1 Argonaut, lib. ii. v. 102-106. "Gracious the goddess 
is not emulous to appear, nor does she bind her hair with 
the burnished gold, letting her starry tresses float about her. 
Wild she is and huge, her cheeks suffused with spots ; most 
like to the Stygian virgins with crackling torch and black 
mantle." 

2 Thebaid. lib. v. 61-64. "Leaving ancient Paphos and 
the hundred altars, not like her former self in countenance 
or the fashion of her hair, she is said to have loosened 
the nuptial girdle and have sent away her doves. Some 
report that in the dead of night, bearing other fires and 
mightier arms, she had hasted with the Tartarean sisters to 
bed-chambers, and filled the secret places of homes with 
twining snakes, and all thresholds with cruel fear." 



LAOCOON. 



6t. 



arrows, the goddess hastes downward, attended by 
furies of like aspect with herself. Must the poet 
abstain from the use of this device because artists 
are debarred from it? If painting claim to be the 
sister of poetry, let the younger at least not be jeal- 
ous of the elder, nor seek to deprive her of orna- 
ments unbecoming to herself. 



62 



LAOCOON. 



IX. 

When we compare poet and painter in particular 
instances, we should be careful to inquire whether 
both have had entire freedom, and been allowed to 
labor for the highest results of their art without the 
exercise of any constraint from without. 

Religion often exercised such constraint upon the 
old artists. A work, devotional in character, must 
often be less perfect than one intended solely to 
produce pleasure. Superstition loaded the gods 
with symbols which were not always reverenced in 
proportion to their beauty. 

In the temple of Bacchus at Lemnos, from which 
the pious Hypsipyle rescued her father under the 
guise of the deity,^ the god was represented horned. 
So he doubtless appeared in all his temples, the 
horns being symbols typical of his nature and func- 
tions. The unfettered artist, whose Bacchus was 
not designed for a temple, omitted the symbol. If, 
among the statues of the god that remain to us, we 
find none with horns,^ that circumstance perhaps 
proves that none of them were sacred statues, repre- 
senting the god in the shape under which he was 
worshipped. We should naturally expect, too, that 



' See Appendix, note 21. 



2 See Appendix, note 22. 



LAOCOON. 



63 



against such the fury of the pious iconoclasts in the 
first centuries of Christianity would have been espe- 
cially directed. Only here and there a work of art 
was spared, because it had never been desecrated by 
being made an object of worship. 

But since, among the antiques that have been 
unburied, there are specimens of both kinds, we should 
discriminate and call only those works of art which 
are the handiwork of the artist, purely as artist, those 
where he has been able to make beauty his first and 
last object. All the rest, all that show an evident 
religious tendency, are unworthy to be called works 
of art. In them Art was not working for her own 
sake, but was simply the tool of Religion, having 
symbolic representations forced upon her with more 
regard to their significance than their beauty. By 
this I do not mean to deny that religion often sacri- 
ficed meaning to beauty, or so far ceased to empha- 
size it, out of regard for art and the finer taste of the 
age, that beauty seemed to have been the sole end 
in view. 

If we make no such distinction, there will be 
perpetual strife between connoisseurs and antiqua- 
rians from their failure to understand each other. 
When the connoisseur maintains, according to his 
conception of the end and aim of art, that certain 
things never could have been made by one of the 
old artists, meaning never by one working as artist 
from his own impulse, the antiquarian will under- 
stand him to say that they could never have been 
fashioned by the artist, as workman, under the influ- 



64 



LAOCOON. 



ence of religion or any other power outside the 
do;nain of art. He will therefore think to confute 
his antagonist by showing some figure which the 
connoisseur, without hesitation, but to the great 
vexalion of the learned world, will condemn back 
to the rubbish from which it had been dug.^ 

But there is danger, on the other hand, of exag- 
gerating the influence of religion on art. Spence 
furnishes a remarkable instance of this. He found 
in Ovid that Vesta was not worshipped in her tem- 
ple under any human image, and he thence drew the 
conclusion that there had never been any statues of 
the goddess. What had passed for such must be 
statues, not of Vesta, but of a vestal virgin.^ An 
extraordinary conclusion ! Because the goddess was 
worshipped in one of her temples under the symbol 
of fire, did artists therefore lose all right to person- 
ify after their fashion a being to whom the poets 
give distinct personality, making her the daughter 
of Saturn and Ops, bringing her into danger of fall- 
ing under the ill treatment of Priapus, and narrating 
yet other things in regard to her ? For Spence com- 
mits the further error of applying to all the temples 
of Vesta and to her worship generally what Ovid 
says only of a certain temple at Rome.^ She was 
not everywhere worshipped as in this temple at 
Rome. Until Numa erected this particular sanc- 
tuary, she was not so worshipped even in Italy. Numa 

1 See Appendix, note 23. 

2 Polymetis, dial. vii. 

3 See Appendix, note 24. 



LAOCOON. 



65 



allowed no deity to be represented in the shape of 
man or beast. In this prohibition of all personal 
representations of Vesta consisted, doubtless, the 
reformation which he introduced into her rites. 
Ovid himself tells us that, before the time of Numa, 
there were statues of Vesta in her temple, which, 
when her priestess Sylvia became a mother, covered 
their eyes with their virgin hands.-^ Yet further 
proof that in the temples of the goddess outside the 
city, in the Roman provinces, her worship was not 
conducted in the manner prescribed by Numa, is 
furnished by various old inscriptions, where mention 
is made of a priest of Vesta (Pontificis Vestae).^ 
At Corinth, again, was a temple of Vesta without 
statues, having only an altar whereon sacrifices were 
offered to the goddess.^ But did the Greeks, there- 
fore, have no statues of Vesta } ' There was one at 
Athens in the Prytaneum, next to the statue of 
Peace.^ The people of lasos boasted of having one 
in the open air, upon which snow and rain never 
fell.^ Pliny mentions one in a sitting posture, from 
the chisel of Scopas, in the Servilian gardens at 
Rome, in his day.^ Granting that it is difficult for 
us now to distinguish between a vestal virgin and 
the goddess herself, does that prove that the ancients 

* See Appendix, note 25. 

2 Lipsius de Vesta et Vestalibus, cap. 13. 

3 Pausanias, Corinth, cap. xxxv. p. 198 (edit. Kuhn). 

4 Pausanias, Attic, cap. xviii. p. 41. 

6 Polyb. Hist. lib. xvi. sect. 2, Op. T. ii. p. 443 (edit 
Ernest.). 

* See Appendix, note 26. 

5 



66 



LAOCOON. 



were not able or did not care to make the distinc- 
tion? Certain attributes point evidently more to 
one than the other. The sceptre, the torch, and the 
palladium would seem to belong exclusively to the 
goddess. The tympanum, attributed to her by Cod- 
inus, belongs to her, perhaps, only as the Earth. 
Or perhaps Codinus himself did not know exactly 
what it was he saw.^ 

1 See Appendix, note 27. 



LAOCOON. 



67 



X. 

Spence's surprise is again aroused in a way that 
shows how little he has reflected on the limits of 
poetry and painting. 

"As to the muses in general," he says, "it is 
remarkable that the poets say but little of them in a 
descriptive way ; much less than might indeed be 
expected for deities to whom they were so particu- 
larly obliged." ^ 

What is this but expressing surprise that the 
poets, when they speak of the muses, do not use the 
dumb language of the painter? In poetry, Urania 
is the muse of astronomy. Her name and her 
employment reveal her office. In art she can be 
recognized only by the wand with which she points 
to a globe of the heavens. The wand, the globe, 
and the attitude are the letters with which the artist 
spells out for us the name Urania. But when the 
poet wants to say that Urania had long read her 
death in the stars, — 

Ipsa diu positis lethum praedixerat astris 
Urania.2 

Why should he add, out of regard to the artist, — 
Urania, wand in hand, with the heavenly globe 

1 Polym^tis, dial, viii, 2 Statius, Theb. viiL 551. 



68 



LAOCOON. 



before her ? Would that not be as if a man, with 
the power and privilege of speech, were to employ 
the signs which the mutes in a Turkish seraglio had 
invented to supply the want of a voice ? 

Spence expresses the same surprise in regard to 
the moral beings, or those divinities who, among the 
ancients, presided over the virtues and undertook 
the guidance of human life.^ " It is observable," 
he says, " that the Roman poets say less of the best 
of these moral beings than might be expected. The 
artists are much fuller on this head ; and one who 
would know how they were each set off must go to 
the medals of the Roman emperors. The poets, 
in fact, speak of them very often as persons ; but 
of their attributes, their dress, and the rest of their 
figure they generally say but little." 

When a poet personifies abstractions he suffi- 
ciently indicates their character by their name and 
employment. 

These means are wanting to the artist, who must 
therefore give to his personified abstractions certain 
symbols by which they may be recognized. These 
symbols, because they are something else and mean 
something else, constitute them allegorical figures. 

A female figure holding a bridle in her hand, 
another leaning against a column, are allegorical 
beings. But in poetry Temperance and Constancy 
are not allegorical beings, but personified abstrac- 
tions. 

Necessity invented these symbols for the artist, 
1 Polymetis, dial. x. 



LAOCOON. 



69 



who could not otherwise indicate the significance of 
this or that figure. But why should the poet, for 
whom no such necessity exists, be obliged to accept 
the conditions imposed upon the artist ? 

What excites Spence's surprise should, in fact, be 
prescribed as a law to all poets. They should not 
regard the limitations of painting as beauties in 
their own art, nor consider the expedients which 
painting has invented in order to keep pace with 
poetry, as graces which they have any reason to 
envy her. By the use of symbols the artist exalts a 
mere figure into a being of a higher order. Should 
the poet employ the same artistic machinery he 
would convert a superior being into a doll. 

Conformity to this rule was as persistently ob- 
served by the ancients as its studious violation is 
by the viciousness of modern poets. All their imag- 
inary beings go masked, and the writers who have 
most skill in this masquerade generally understand 
least the real object of their work, which is to let 
their personages act, and by their actions reveal 
their character. 

Among the attributes by which the artist individ- 
ualizes his abstractions, there is one class, however, 
better adapted to the poet than those we have been 
considering, and more worthy of his use. I refer to 
such as are not strictly allegorical, but may be 
regarded as instruments which the beings bearing 
them would or could use, should they ever come to 
act as real persons. The bridle in the hand of 
Temperance, the pillar which supports Constancy 



70 



LAOCOON. 



are purely allegorical, and cannot therefore be used 
by the poet. The scales in the hand of Justice are 
less so, because the right use of the scales is one of 
the duties of Justice. Th6 lyre or flute in the hand 
of a muse, the lance in the hand of Mars, hammer 
and tongs in the hands of Vulcan, are not symbols 
at all, but simply instruments without which none of 
the actions characteristic of these beings could be 
performed. To this class belong the attributes 
sometimes woven by the old poets into their descrip- 
tions, and which, in distinction from those that are 
allegorical, I would call the poetical. These signify 
the thing itself, while the others denote only some 
thing similar.^ 

1 See Appendix, note 28. 



LAOCOON. 



71 



XI. 

Count Caylus also seems to require that the poet 
should deck out the creatures of his imagination 
with allegorical attributes.-^ The Count understood 
painting better than poetry. 

But other points more worthy of remark have 
struck me in the same work of his, some of the 
most important of which I shall mention here for 
closer consideration. 

The artist, in the Count's opinion, should make 
himself better acquainted with Homer, that greatest 
of all word painters, — that second nature, in fact. 
He calls attention to the rich and fresh material 
furnished by the narrative of the great Greek, and 
assures the painter that the more closely he follows 
the poet in every detail, the nearer his work will 
approach to perfection. 

This is confounding the two kinds of imitation 
mentioned above. The painter is not only to copy 
the same thing that the poet has copied, but he is 
to copy it with the same touches. He is to use the 
poet not only as narrator, but as poet. 

But why is not this second kind of imitation, 
See Appendix, note 29. 



72 



LAOCOON. 



which we ha^e found to be degrading to the poet, 
equally so to the artist? If there had existed 
previous to Homer such a series of pictures as he 
suggests to Count Caylus, and we knew that the 
poet had composed his work from them, would he 
not lose greatly in our estimation ? Why should we 
not in like manner cease to admire the artist who 
should do no more than translate the words of the 
poet into form and color ? 

The reason I suppose to be this. In art the diffi- 
culty appears to lie more in the execution than 
in the invention, while with poetry the contrary is 
the case. There the execution seems easy in com- 
parison with the invention. Had Virgil copied the 
twining of the serpents about Laocoon and his sons 
from the marble, then his description would lose its 
chief merit ; for what we consider the more difficult 
part had been done for him. The first conception 
of this grouping in the imagination is a far greater 
achievement than the expression of it in words. But 
if the sculptor have borrowed the grouping from the 
poet, we still consider him deserving of great praise, 
although he have not the merit of the first conception. 
For to give expression in marble is incalculably more 
difficult than to give it in words. We weigh inven- 
tion and execution in opposite scales, and are inclined 
to require from the master as much less of one as 
he has given us more of the other. 

There are even cases where the artist deserves 
more credit for copying Nature through the medium 
of the poet's imitation than directly from herself. 



LAOCOON. 



73 



The painter who makes a beautiful landscape from 
the description of a Thomson, does more than one 
who takes his picture at first hand from nature. The 
latter sees his model before him ; the former must, 
by an effort of imagination, think he sees it. One 
makes a beautiful picture from vivid, sensible impres- 
sions, the other from the feeble, uncertain represen- 
tations of arbitrary signs. 

From this natural readiness to excuse the artist 
from the merit of invention, has arisen on his part 
an equally natural indifference to it. Perceiving 
that invention could never be his strong point, but 
that his fame must rest chiefly on execution, he 
ceased to care whether his theme were new or old, 
whether it had been used once or a hundred times, 
belonged to himself or another. He kept within the 
narrow range of a few subjects, grown familiar to 
himself and the public, and directed all his inven- 
tion to the introducing of some change in the treat- 
ment, some new combination of the old objects. 
That is actually the meaning attached to the word 
" invention " in the old text-books on painting. For 
although they divide it into the artistic and the 
poetic, yet even the poetic does not extend to the 
originating of a subject, but solely to the arrange- 
ment or expression.-^ It is invention, not of the 
whole, but of the individual parts and their connec- 
tion with one another ; invention of that inferior 
kind which Horace recommended to his tragic poet : 

* Betrachtungen iiber die Malerei, p. 159. 



74 



LAOCOON. 



Tuque 

Rectius Iliacum carmen deducis in actus, 
Quam si proferres ignota indictaque primus. 1 

Recommended, I say, but not commanded. He 
recommended it as easier for him, more convenient, 
more advantageous : he did not command it as 
intrinsically nobler and better. 

The poet, indeed, has a great advantage when he 
treats of familiar historical facts and well-known 
characters. He can omit a hundred tiresome details 
otherwise indispensable to an understanding of the 
piece. And the sooner he is understood, the sooner 
he can interest his readers. The same advantage is 
possessed by the painter when his subject is so familiar 
to us that we take in at a glance the meaning and 
design of his whole composition, and can not only 
see that his characters are speaking, but can even 
hear what they say. On that first glance the chief 
effect depends. If that necessitate a tiresome guess- 
ing and pondering, our readiness to be touched is 
chilled. We take revenge upon the unwise artist by 
hardening ourselves against his expression ; and alas 
for him, if to that expression he have sacrificed 
beauty ! No inducement remains for us to linger 
before his work. What we see does not pleaie us, 
and what it means we do not understand. 

Considering now these two points : first, that 

1 Ad Pisones, v. 128-130. "Thou wilt do better to write out 
in acts the story of Troy, than to tell of things not yet known 
nor sung." 



LAOCOON. 



75 



invention and novelty in the subject are by no 
means what we chiefly require from the painter; and 
secondly, that a familiar subject helps and quickens 
the effect of his art, I think we shall find a deeper 
reason for his avoidance of new subjects than indo- 
lence or ignorance or absorption of his whole indus- 
try and time in the mechanical difficulties of his 
art, which are the causes assigned for it by Count 
Caylus. We may even be inclined to praise as a 
wise and, as far as we are concerned, a beneficent 
forbearance on the part of the artist, what seemed 
to us at first a deficiency in art and a curtailment of 
our enjoyment. 

I have no fear that experience will contradict me. 
Painters will be grateful to the Count for his good 
intentions, but will hardly make as general use of 
his advice as he expects. Should such, however, be 
the case, a new Caylus would be needed at the end 
of a hundred years to remind us of the old themes 
and recall the artist to a field where others before 
him have reaped undying laurels. Or shall we 
expect the public to be as learned as the connois- 
seur with his books, and familiar with all the scenes 
of history and fable that offer fit subjects for art ? 
I grant that artists, since the time of Raphael, 
would have done better to take Homer for their 
manual than Ovid. But since, once for all, they 
have not done so, let us leave the public in its old 
ruts, and not throw more difficulties in the way of 
its pleasure than are necessary to make the pleasure 
worth having. 



76 



LAOCOON. 



Protogenes had painted the mother of Aristotle. 
I know not how much the philosopher paid for the 
picture, but instead of the full payment, or perhaps 
over and above it, he gave the painter a piece of 
advice which was of more value than the money. 
Not, as I believe, in the way of flattery, but because 
he knew that art needed to make itself universally 
intelligible, he advised him to paint the exploits of 
Alexander. The whole world was ringing with the 
fame of them, and he could foresee that their mem- 
ory would remain to all posterity. But Protogenes 
was not wise enough to follow this counsel. " Impe- 
tus animi," says Pliny, " et quaedam artis libido," ^ 
a certain presumption in art, and a craving after 
something new and strange, led him to the choice of 
other subjects. He preferred the story of lalysus,^ 
of Cydippe, and others of like kind, whose meaning 
we can now scarce even conjecture. 

1 Lib. XXXV. sect. 36, 2 See Appendix, note 3a 



LAOeOON. 



77 



XII. 

Homer treats of two different classes of beings and 
actions, — the visible and the invisible. This dis- 
tinction cannot be made on canvas, where every 
thing is visible, and visible in precisely the same 
way. 

When Count Caylus, therefore, makes pictures of 
invisible actions follow immediately upon pictures 
of visible ones ; and in scenes of mixed actions, par- 
ticipated in by beings of both kinds, does not, and 
perhaps cannot, indicate how those figures which 
only we who look at the picture are supposed to see, 
shall be so represented that the characters in the 
picture shall not see them, or at least shall not look 
as if they could not help seeing them, he makes the 
whole series, as well as many separate pictures, in 
the highest degree confused, unintelligible, and self- 
contradictory. 

With the book before us this difficulty might finally 
be overcome. The great objection would be that, 
with the loss of all distinction to the eye between 
the visible and the invisible beings, all the charac- 
teristic traits must likewise disappear, which serve 
to elevate the higher order of beings above the 
lower. 



LAOCOON. 



When, for instance, the gods who take different 
sides in the Trojan war come at last to actual blows, 
the contest goes on in the poem unseen.-^ This 
invisibility leaves the imagination free play to enlarge 
the scene at will, and picture the gods and their 
movements on a scale far grander than the measure 
of common humanity. But painting must accept a 
visible theatre, whose various fixed parts become 
a scale of measurement for the persons acting upon 
it. This scale is always before the eye, and the 
disproportionate size of any superhuman figures 
makes beings that were grand in the poem mon- 
strous on canvas. 

Minerva, on whom Mars had made the first attack, 
steps backward and with mighty hand lifts from the 
ground an enormous stone, black and rough, which, 
in old times, had required the strength of many 
men to be rolled into its place and set up as a land- 
mark.^ 

rj dvaxctoaaiisvj] li&ov eilexo x^iQi itaxdi^ 

HEifxevov tv Ttedlcp, [isXava, xqijivv re ^syav ts, 

tov Q avdgsg ntgoTegoi &8(jav ^^fxsvai ovqov dgovQTjg' 

To obtain an adequate idea of the size of this stone, 
we must remember that Homer makes his heroes 
twice as strong as the mightiest men of his day, yet 

Iliad xxi. 385. 
* She only stepped 

Backward a space, and with her powerful hand 
Lifted a stone that lay upon the plain, 
Black, huge, and jagged, which the men of old 
Had placed there for a landmark. — Bryant. 



LAOCOON. 



79 



says they were far surpassed in strength by the men 
whom Nestor had known in his youth. Now if 
Minerva is to hurl at Mars a stone which it had 
required, not one man, but many men of the time of 
Nestor's youth to set up as a landmark, what, I ask, 
should be the stature of the goddess ? If her size 
be proportioned to that of the stone, all marvel 
ceases. A being of thrice my size can, of course, 
throw three times as large a stone. But if the 
stature of the goddess be not proportioned to the 
size of the stone, the result is a palpable improba- 
bility in the picture which cannot be atoned for by 
the cold consideration that a goddess is necessarily 
of supernatural strength. 

Mars, overthrown by this enormous stone, cov- 
ered seven hides, — 

ktza. d' hniaiB TteXsd-Qa Tzeaav. 

It is impossible for the painter to give the god this 
extraordinary size. Yet if he do not, we have no 
Homeric Mars lying on the ground, but an ordinary 
warrior.-^ 

Longinus says, it has often seemed to him that 
Homer's design was to raise his men to gods and 
degrade his deities to men. Painting accomplishes 
this. On canvas we lose every thing which in 
poetry exalts the gods above mere godlike men. 
Size, strength, speed, — qualities which Homer has 
always in store for his gods in miraculous measure, 
far surpassing any thing he attributes to his most 

^ See Appendix, no^^e 31. 



So 



LAOCOON. 



famous heroes,^ — are necessarily reduced in the 
picture to the common scale of humanity. Jupiter 
and Agamemnon, Apollo and Achilles, Ajax and 
Mars, are all kindred beings, only to be distinguished 
by some arbitrary outward sign. 

The expedient to which painters have recourse to 
indicate that a certain character is supposed to be 
invisible, is a thin cloud veiling the side of the figure 
that is turned towards the other actors on the scene. 
This cloud seems at first to be borrowed from 
Homer himself. For, when in the confusion of 
battle one of the chief heroes becomes exposed to a 
danger from which nothing short of divine aid can 
save him, the poet makes his guardian deity veil him 
in a thick cloud or in darkness, and so lead him 
from the field. Paris is thus delivered by Venus,^ 
Idaeus by Neptune,^ Hector by Apollo.'* Caylus 
never omits strongly to recommend to the artist this 
mist or cloud, whenever he is to paint pictures of 
such occurrences. But who does not perceive that 
this veiling in mist and darkness is only the poet's 
way of saying that the hero became invisible? It 
always seems strange to me, therefore, to find this 
poetical expression embodied in a picture, and an 
actual cloud introduced, behind which, as behind a 
screen, the hero stands hidden from his enemy. 
This was not the poet's meaning. The artist in this 
exceeds the limits of painting. His cloud is a 
hieroglyphic, a purely symbolic sign, which does not 

1 See Appendix, note 32. 2 niad iii. 381. 

' Iliad V. 23. ■* Iliad xx. 444. 



LAOCOON. 



8l 



make the rescued hero invisible, but simply says 
to the observers, — "You are to suppose this man 
to be invisible." It is no better than the rolls of 
paper with sentences upon them, which issue from 
the mouth of personages in the old Gothic pictures. 

Homer, to be sure, makes Achilles give three 
thrusts with his lance at the thick cloud ^ while 
Apollo is carrying off Hector, — tqig 8' viBqu rvxps 
§a&Elav. But that, in the language of poetry, only 
means that Achilles was so enraged that he thrust 
three times with his lance before perceiving that his 
enemy was no longer before him. Achilles saw no 
actual cloud. The whole secret of this invisibility 
lay not in the cloud, but in the god's swift with- 
drawal of the imperilled hero. In order to indicate 
that the withdrawal took place so instantaneously 
that no human eye could follow the retreating form, 
the poet begins by throwing over his hero a cloud ; 
not because the by-standers saw the cloud in the 
place of the vanished shape, but because to oui 
mind things in a cloud are invisible. 

The opposite device is sometimes used, and, instead 
of the object being made invisible, the subject is smit- 
ten with blindness. Thus Neptune blinds the eyes 
of Achilles when he rescues ^neas from his mur- 
derous hands by transporting him from the thick of 
the contest to the rear.^ In reality, the eyes of 
Achilles were no more blinded in the one case than 
in the other the rescued heroes were veiled in a 
cloud. Both are mere expressions employed by the 
1 Iliad XX. 446. 2 Iliad xx. 321. 

6 



82 



LAOCOON. 



poet to impress more vividly on our minds the 
extreme rapidity of the removal ; the disappearance, 
as we should call it. 

But artists have appropriated the Homeric mist not 
only in those cases of concealment or disappearance 
where Homer himself employed or would have em- 
ployed it, but in cases where the spectator was to 
perceive something which the characters on the can- 
vas, or some of them at least, were not to be con- 
scious of. Minerva was visible to Achilles only, 
when she restrained him from committing violence 
against Agamemnon. " I know no other way of 
expressing this," says Caylus, "than to interpose a 
cloud between the goddess and the other members 
of the council." This is entirely contrary to the 
spirit of the poet. Invisibility was the natural 
condition of his deities. So far from any stroke 
of blindness or intercepting of the rays of light 
being necessary to render them invisible,^ a special 
illumination, an increased power of human vision 
was needed to see them. Not only, therefore, is 
this cloud an arbitrary and not a natural symbol in 
painting, but it does not possess the clearness which, 
as an arbitrary sign, it should. It has a double 
meaning, being employed as well to make the invis- 
ible visible as to render the visible invisible. 

1 See Appendix, note 33. 



LAOCOON. 



83 



XIII. 

If Homer's works were completely destroyed, and 
nothing remained of the Iliad and Odyssey but this 
series of pictures proposed by Caylus, should we 
from these — even supposing them to be executed 
by the best masters — form the same idea that we 
now have of the poet's descriptive talent alone, 
setting aside all his other qualities as a poet? 

Let us take the first piece that comes to hand, — 
the picture of the plague.^ What do we see on the 
canvas ? Dead bodies, the flame of funeral pyres, 
the dying busied with the dead, the angry god upon 
a cloud discharging his arrows. The profuse wealth 
of the picture becomes poverty in the poet. Should 
we attempt to restore the text of Homer from this 
picture, what can we make him say ? " Thereupon 
the wrath of Apollo was kindled, and he shot his 
arrows among the Grecian army. Many Greeks 
died, and their bodies were burned." Now let us 
turn to Homer himself : ^ 

1 Iliad i. 44-53. Tableaux tires de I'lliade, p. 70. 

Down he came, 
Down from the summit of the Olympian mount, 
Wrathful in heart ; his shoulders bore the bow 
And hollow quiver ; there the arrows rang 
Upon the shoulders of the angry god, 
As on he moved. He came as comes the night. 



84 



LAOCOON. 



be y.az Ovlv^noio nagr^vcov )[(o6fievog xjjg, 

sxXayhuv 5' ao o'l'axo} tn (Oficov ^(^(oofxsvoiOj 
avxov mvrix^ivTog' 6 d' rfte vvxtI loixcog. 
tCsT eTteiT dTidvEvd^e vewv, fiszcc 5' i6v €i])t8V 
daivtj §€ xlayyrj ysvst dgyvQeoio ^loio. 
ovQijag fih tcqwtov eTtcp^STO aat xvvag agyovg, 
avTOLQ mEix avxoTai ^ilog tx^Ttsvaeg tqjiEig 
^d)X' ale} ds TCVQoi. vexvcov xaiovro &a^eiaL 

The poet here is as far beyond the painter, as life is 
better than a picture. Wrathful, with bow and 
quiver, Apollo descends from the Olympian towers. 
I not only see him, but hear him. At every step the 
arrows rattle on the shoulders of the angry god. 
He enters among the host like the night. Now he 
seats himself over against the ships, and, with a 
terrible clang of the silver bow, sends his first shaft 
against the mules and dogs. Next he turns his 
poisoned darts upon the warriors themselves, and 
unceasing blaze on every side the corpse-laden pyres. 
It is impossible to translate into any other language 
, the musical painting heard in the poet's words. 
Equally impossible would it be to infer it from the 
canvas. Yet this is the least of the advantages 

And, seated from the ships aloof, sent forth 

An arrow ; terrible was heard the clang 

Of that resplendent bow. At first he smote 

The mules and the swift dogs, and then on man 

He turned the deadly arrow. All around 

Glared evermore the frequent funeral piles. — Bryant. 



LAOCOON. 



85 



possessed by the poetical picture. Its chief supe- 
riority is that it leads us through a whole gallery of 
pictures up to the point depicted by the artist. 

But the plague is perhaps not a favorable subject 
for a picture. Take the council of the gods,^ which 
:s more particularly addressed to the eye. An open 
palace of gold, groups of the fairest and most 
majestic forms, goblet in hand, served by eternal 
youth in the person of Hebe. What architecture ! 
what masses of light and shade ! what contrasts ! 
what variety of expression ! Where shall I begin, 
where cease, to feast my eyes ? If the painter thus 
enchant me, how much more will the poet ! I open 
the book and find myself deceived. I read four 
good, plain lines, which might very appropriately be 
written under the painting. They contain material 
for a picture, but are in themselves none.-^ 

01 8s d^eol TtcLQ Zt]vi xad^^^svoi ^j'oqocovto 
XQvcico Iv daTzsdcp, fxercc ds oq^ioi noxna "H§i] 
vimaQ ecovoxosr rot ygvasotg deTzaeaaiv 
deidsyar dXXijXovg, Tqcoojv rtohv eiaoQocovreg. 

Apollonius, or a more indifferent poet still, would 
not have said it worse. Here Homer is as far 
behind the artist as, in the former instance, he sur- 
passed him. 

1 Iliad iv. 1-4. Tableaux tires de I'lliade, p. 30. 
Meantime the immortal gods with Jupiter 
Upon his golden pavement sat and held 
A council. Hebe, honored of them all, 
Ministered nectar, and from cups of gold 
They pledged each other, looking down on Troy. 

Bryant. 



86 



LAOCOON. 



Yet, except in these four lines, Caylus finds no 
single picture in the whole fourth book of the Iliad. 
" Rich as this book is," he says, " in its manifold 
exhortations to battle, in the abundance of its con- 
spicuous and contrasting characters, in the skill 
with which the masses to be set in motion are 
brought before us, it is yet entirely unavailable for 
painting." " Rich as it otherwise is," he might have 
added, "in what are called poetic pictures." For 
surely in this fourth book we find as many such 
pictures, and as perfect, as in any of the whole 
poem. Where is there a more detailed, a more 
striking picture than that of Pandarus breaking the 
truce at the instigation of Minerva, and discharging 
his arrow at Menelaus? than that of the advance 
of the Grecian army ? or of the mutual attack ? or 
of the deed of Ulysses, whereby he avenges the 
death of his friend Leucus? 

What must we conclude, except that not a few of 
the finest pictures in Homer are no pictures for the 
artist ? that the artist can extract pictures from him 
where he himself has none? that such of his as 
the artist can use would be poor indeed did they 
show us no more than we see on the canvas ? what, 
in short, but a negative answer to my question? 
Painted pictures drawn from the poems of Homer, 
however numerous and however admirable they may 
be, can give us no idea of the descriptive talent of 
the poet. 



LAOCOON. 



87 



XIV. 

If it, then, be true that a poem not in itself pic- 
turesque may yet be rich in subjects for an artist, 
while another in a high degree picturesque may 
yield him nothing, this puts an end to the theory 
of Count Caylus, that the test of a poem is its avail- 
ability for the artist, and that a poet's rank should 
depend upon the number of pictures he supplies to 
the painter.^ 

Far be it from us to give this theory even the 
sanction of our silence. Milton would be the first 
to fall an innocent victim. Indeed, the contemptu- 
ous judgment which Caylus passes upon the English 
poet would seem to be the result not so much of 
national taste as of this assumed rule. Milton re- 
sembles Homer, he says, in little excepting loss of 
sight. Milton, it is true, can fill no picture galleries. 
But if, so long as I retained my bodily eye, its sphere 
must be the measure of my inward vision, then I 
should esteem its loss a gain, as freeing me from 
such limitations. 

The fact that " Paradise Lost " furnishes few sub- 
jects for a painter no more prevents it from being 
the greatest epic since Homer, than the story of 

1 See Appendix, note 34. 



88 



LAOCOON. 



the passion of Christ becomes a poem, because you 
can hardly insert the head of a pin in any part of 
the narrative without touching some passage which 
has employed a crowd of the greatest artists. The 
evangelists state their facts with the dryest possible 
simplicity, and the painter uses their various details 
while the narrators themselves manifested not the 
smallest spark of genius for the picturesque. There 
are picturesque and unpicturesque facts, and the 
historian may relate the most picturesque without 
picturesqueness, as the poet can make a picture of 
those least adapted to the painter's use. 

To regard the matter otherwise is to allow our- 
selves to be misled by the double meaning of a 
word. A picture in poetry is not necessarily one 
which can be transferred to canvas. But every 
touch, or every combination of touches, by means 
of which the poet brings his subject so fividly be- 
fore us that we are more conscious of the subject 
than of his words, is picturesque, and makes what 
we call a picture ; that is, it produces that degree 
of illusion which a painted picture is peculiarly quali- 
fied to excite, and which we in fact most frequently 
and naturally experience in the contemplation of the 
painted canvas.-^ 

1 See Appendix, note 35. 



LAOCOON. 



89 



XV. 

Experience shows that the poet can produce this 

degree of illusion by the representation of other than 
visible objects. He therefore has at his command 
whole classes of subjects which elude the artist. 
Dryden's "Ode on Cecilia's Day" is full of musi- 
cal pictures, but gives no employment to the brush. 
But I will not lose myself in examples of this kind, 
for they after all teach us little more than that colors 
are not tones, and ears not eyes. 

I will confine myself to pictures of visible objects, 
available alike to poet and painter. What is the 
reason that many poetical pictures of this class are 
unsuitable for the painter, while many painted pic- 
tures lose their chief effect in the hands of the 
poet ? 

Examples may help us. I revert to the picture 
of Pandarus in the fourth book of the Iliad, as one 
of the most detailed and graphic in all Homer. 
From the seizing of the bow to the flight of the arrow 
every incident is painted; and each one follows its 
predecessor so closely, and yet is so distinct from 
it, that a person who knew nothing of the use of 
a bow cauld learn it from this picture alone.^ Pan- 

1 See Appendix, note 36. 



90 



LAOCOON. 



darus brings forth his bow, attaches the string, opens 
the quiver, selects a well-feathered arrow never 
before used, adjusts the notch of the arrow to the 
string, and draws back both string and arrow ; 
the string approaches his breast, the iron point of 
the arrow nears the bow, the great arched bow 
springs back with a mighty twang, the cord rings, 
and away leaps the eager arrow speeding towards 
the mark. 

Caylus cannot have overlooked this admirable 
picture. What, then, did he find which made him 
judge it no fitting subject for an artist ? And what 
in the council and carousal of the gods made that 
seem more adapted to his purpose? The subjects 
are visible in one case as in the other, and what 
more does the painter need for his canvas? 

The difficulty must be this. Although both themes, 
as representing visible objects, are equally adapted 
to painting, there is this essential difference between 
them : one is a visible progressive action, the various 
parts of which follow one another in time ; the 
other is a visible stationary action, the development 
of whose various parts takes place in space. Since 
painting, because its signs or means of imitation 
can be combined only in space, must relinquish all 
representations of time, therefore progressive actions, 
as such, cannot come within its range. It must 
content itseli with actions in space ; in other words, 
with mere bodies, whose attitude lets us infer their 
action. Poetry, on the contrary — 



LAOCOON. 



91 



XVI. 

But I will try to prove my conclusions by starting 
from first principles. 

I argue thus. If it be true that painting employs 
wholly different signs or means of imitation from 
poetry, — the one using forms and colors in space, 
the other articulate sounds in time, — and if signs 
must unquestionably stand in convenient relation 
with the thing signified, then signs arranged side by 
side can represent only objects existing side by side, 
or whose parts so exist, while consecutive signs can 
express only objects which succeed each other, or 
whose parts succeed each other, in time. 

Objects which exist side by side, or whose parts 
so exist, are called bodies. Consequently bodies 
with their visible properties are the peculiar subjects 
of painting. 

Objects which succeed each other, or whose parts 
succeed each other in time, are actions. Conse- 
quently actions are the peculiar subjects of poetry. 

All bodies, however, exist not only in space, but 
also in time. They continue, and, at any moment of 
their continuance, may assume a different appear- 
ance and stand in different relations. Every one of 
these momentary appearances and groupings was 
the result of a preceding, may become the cause of 



92 



LAOCOON, 



a following, and is therefore the centre of a present, 
action. Consequently painting can imitate actions 
also, but only as they are suggested through forms. 

Actions, on the other hand, cannot exist indepen- 
dently, but must always be joined to certain agents. 
In so far as those agents are bodies or are regarded 
as such, poetry describes also bodies, but only indi- 
rectly through actions. 

Painting, in its coexistent compositions, can use 
but a single moment of an action, and must there- 
fore choose the most pregnant one, the one most 
suggestive of what has gone before and what is to 
follow. 

Poetry, in its progressive imitations, can use but a 
single attribute of bodies, and must choose that one 
which gives the most vivid picture of the body as 
exercised in this particular action. 

Hence the rule for the employment of a single 
descriptive epithet, and the cause of the rare occur- 
rence of descriptions of physical objects. 

I should place less confidence in this dry chain of 
conclusions, did I not find them fully confirmed by 
Homer, or, rather, had they not been first suggested 
to me by Homer's method. These principles alone 
furnish a key to the noble style of the Greek, and 
enable us to pass just judgment on the opposite 
m(ithod of many modern poets who insist upon 
emulating the artist in a point where they must of 
necessity remain inferior to him. 

I find that Homer paints nothing but progressive 
actions. All bodies, all separate objects, are painted 



LAOCOON. 



93 



only as they take part in such actions, and generally 
with a single touch. No wonder, then, that artists 
find in Homer's pictures little or nothing to their pur- 
pose, and that their only harvest is where the narra- 
tion brings together in a space favorable to art a 
number of beautiful shapes in graceful attitudes, how- 
ever little the poet himself may have painted shapes, 
attitudes, or space. If we study one by one the whole 
series of pictures proposed by Caylus, we shall in 
every case find proof of the justness of these conclu- 
sions. 

Here, then, I leave the Count with his desire to 
make the painter's color-stone the touchstone of the 
poet, and proceed to examine more closely the style 
of Homer. 

For a single thing, as I have said. Homer has 
commonly but a single epithet. A ship is to him at 
one time the black ship, at another the hollow ship, 
and again the swift ship. At most it is the well- 
manned black ship. Further painting of the ship 
he does not attempt. But of the ship's sailing, its 
departure and arrival, he makes so detailed a pict- 
ure, that the artist would have to paint five or six, to 
put the whole upon his canvas. 

If circumstances compel Homer to fix our atten- 
tion for a length of time on any one object, he still 
makes no picture of it which an artist can follow 
with his brush. By countless devices he presents 
this single object in a series of moments, in every 
one of which it assumes a different form. Only in 
the final one can the painter seize it, and show us 



94 



LAOCOON. 



ready made what the artist has been showing us in 
the making. If Homer, for instance, wants us to 
see the chariot of Juno, Hebe must put it together 
piece by piece before our eyes. We see the wheels, 
the axle, the seat, the pole, the traces and straps, 
not already in place, but as they come together 
under Hebe's hands. The wheels are the only part 
on which the poet bestows more than a single 
epithet. He shows us separately the eight brazen 
spokes, the golden fellies, the tires of brass, and 
the silver nave. It would almost seem that, as 
there was more than one wheel, he wished to spend 
as much more time in the description as the putting 
on would require in reality.^ 

^(^dXiiea OHxd'Avrjiia, oidt]QS(p d^on dixcpig. 
tcov riTOi XQ'^<^^ '"^^^ dq)&irog, avxag VTteQdsv 
^dXxe emcacozga TtQoaagrjQora, &av^a idsa&ai' 
TtXrjiivai 5' dgyvQOV Eiai TtSQidgofioi dficpoxsQto&ev, 
diqiQog 8s iQvamai xal dgyvghiaiv if^daiv 
kvtharai, doiou ds TzeQidgo^ioi dvzvys'g daiv, 

^ Iliad V. 722. 

Hebe rolled the wheels, 
Each with eight spokes, and joined them to the ends 
Of the steel axle, — fellies wrought of gold, 
Bound with a brazen rim to last for ages, — 
A wonder to behold. The hollow naves 
Were silver, and on gold and silver cords 
"Was slung the chariot's seat ; in silver hooks 
Rested the reins ; and silver was the pole 
Where the fair yoke and poitrels, all of gold. 
She fastened. — Bryant. 



LAOCOON. 



95 



Tov d' ccQyvQEog QVfxdg TtsXsv* avtaQ In «x^q) 
brjcE iQvaEiov xaXov ^ydv, Iv 8s XsTtadva 

When Homer wishes to tell us how Agamemnon 
was dressed, he makes the king put on every article 
of raiment in our presence : the soft tunic, the great 
mantle, the beautiful sandals, and the sword. When 
he is thus fully equipped he grasps his sceptre. We 
see the clothes while the poet is describing the act 
of dressing. An inferior writer would have described 
the clothes down to the minutest fringe, and of the 
action we should have seen nothing.-^ 

[laXaxov 5' evdvve /rTooya, 
i(aX6v VTjydreov, tzsqI ds fisya ^dXXeto qjagog' 
TtoGGi 8' vTto XiTtagoiGiv ed^aaro yiaXd TZsdiXa, 
d(A,q)l 5' dg mfioiatv ^dXezo ^iqjog dgyvgoriXov. 
eiXeto ds oytriTtTQOv TtarQcoiov, dqj&irov aiei' 

How does he manage when he desires to give a 
more full and minute picture of the sceptre, which is 
here called only ancestral and undecaying, as a 
similar one in another place is only iQvaioig TjXom 
7ze7tdg(iEvov, — golden-studded ? Does he paint for 
us, besides the golden nails, the wood, and the 

1 Iliad ii. 43-47. 

He sat upright and put his tunic on, 

Soft, fair, and new, and over that he cast 

His ample cloak, and round his shapely feet 

Laced the becoming sandals. Next, he hung 

Upon his shoulders and his side the sword 

With silver studs, and took into his hand 

The ancestral sceptre, old but undecayed. — Bryant, 



96 



LAOCOON. 



carved head ? He might have done so, had he been 
writing a description for a book of heraldry, from 
which at some later day an exact copy was to be made. 
Yet I have no doubt that many a modern poet 
would have given such heraldic description in the 
honest belief that he was really making a picture 
himself, because he ^vas giving the painter material 
for one. But what does Homer care how far he out- 
strips the painter ? Instead of a copy, he gives us 
the history of the sceptre. First we see it in the 
workshop of Vulcan ; then it shines in the hands of 
Jupiter; now it betokens the dignity of Mercury; 
now it is the baton of warlike Pelops ; and again 
the shepherd's staff of peace-loving Atreus.-^ 

ayJiTtxQOv, to fisv "Hqjaiaxog 'Aciixs rey/ooj'* 
"Hq)cuaTog iisv daxs zJu Kqovlcovi civuxri, 
avraQ aga Zsvg 5coxe bicc/.tOQco ^Qyeigjovzy 

avxag 6 avis Iltloip dco/i 'Atq^i\ Ttoijiin lacof 
1 Iliad ii. loi-ioS. 

He held 

The sceptre ; Vulcan's skill had fashioned it. 

And Vulcan gave it to Saturnian Jove, 

And Jove bestowed it on his messenger, 

The Argus-queller Hermes. He in turn 

Gave it to Pelops, great in horsemanship ; 

And Pelops passed the gift to Atreus next, 

The people's shepherd. Atreus, when he died. 

Bequeathed it to Thyestes, rich in flocks ; 

And last, Th3'estes left it to be borne 

By Agamemnon, symbol of his rule 

O'er many isles and all the Argive realm. — BRYANT, 



LAOCOON. 



97 



avxao 6 avTS Qv^'ar ^^yafisfjivovi Xeine cpogrjvai, 
TtoXXf^aiv v^ooiai xal "j4Qyu navxl dvdoasiv. 

And so at last I know this sceptre better than if 
a painter should put it before my eyes, or a second 
Vulcan give it into my hands. 

It would not surprise me to find that some one of 
Homer's old commentators had admired this pas- 
sage as a perfect allegory of the origin, progress, 
establishment, and final inheritance of monarchical 
power among men. I should smile indeed were I to 
read that the maker of the sceptre, Vulcan, as fire, as 
that which is of supreme importance to the main- 
tenance of mankind, typified the removal of the 
necessities which induced the early races of men 
to subject themselves to a single ruler ; that the first 
king was a son of Time (Zevg Kqovlcov), revered 
and venerable, who desired to share his power with 
a wise and eloquent man, a Mercury (/Jia-AtoQcp 
'y^Qyaiqjovtrj), or to resign it wholly to him ; that 
the wise speaker, at the time when the young state 
was threatened by foreign enemies, delivered his 
supreme authority to the bravest warrior (llsXom 
TtXr^mTtco) ; that the brave warrior, after having sub- 
dued the enemies and secured the safety of the 
realm, let this power play into the hands of his son, 
who, as a peace-loving ruler, a beneficent shepherd 
of his people (tzoi^iiv Xamv), introduced comfort and 
^uxury; that thus the way was opened, after his 
death, for the richest of his relations (7toXva()V' 
7 



98 



LAOCOON. 



Gvgarrf) to obtain by gifts and bribery, and finally 
to secure to his family for ever, as a piece of prop- 
erty obtained by purchase, that authority which had 
originally been conferred as a mark of confidence, 
and had been regarded by merit rather as a burden 
than an honor. I should smile at all this, but it 
would increase my respect for a poet to whom so 
much could be attributed. 

But this is a digression. I am now considering 
the history of the sceptre as a device for making us 
hnger over a single object, without entering into a 
tiresome description of its various parts. Again, 
when Achilles swears by his sceptre to be revenged 
on Agamemnon for his contemptuous treatment, 
Homer gives us the history of this sceptre. We see 
it still green upon the mountains, the axe severs it 
from the parent trunk, strips it of leaves and bark, 
and makes it ready to serve the judges of the people, 
as the token of their godlike office.^ 

val fia rode cx^TttQOv, to fxsv ovTtors q)v).la not ol^ovg 
(fvasiy tTzeid/] ttqcotu xoiirjv Iv OQEcai X?1oitcev, 
ovd' dvad-rjh]08t' tzsqI ydg gd i xaXmg sXsipsv 
(fvlla Ts xai q)Xoi6v ' vvv avti [xiv vteg ^ A^oLiGiV 
kv TzaXdfiijg qjOQsovai dMaanoXoi, oits d^siiiazag 
ftQog /Jibg eiQvarai. 

1 Iliad i. 234-239. 

By this my sceptre, which can never bear 
A leaf or twig, since first it left its stem 
Among the mountains, — for the steel has pared 
Its boughs and bark away, — to sprout no more, 
And now the Achaian judges bear it, — they 
Who guard the laws received from Jupittr. 

Bryant. 



LAOCOON. 



99 



Homer's object was not so much to describe two 
staves of different shape and material, as to give us 
a graphic picture of the different degrees of power 
which these staves represented. One the work of 
Vulcan, the other cut upon the hills by an unknown 
hand ; one the old possession of a noble house, the 
other destined to be grasped by the first comer ; one 
extended by a monarch over many islands and over 
all Argos, the other borne by one from among the 
Greeks, who, in connection with others, had been 
intrusted with the duty of upholding the laws. This 
was in fact the difference between Agamemnon and 
Achilles ; and Achilles, even in the blindness of his 
passion, could not but admit it. 

Not only when Homer's descriptions have these 
higher aims in view, but even when his sole object 
is the picture, he will yet break this up into a sort of 
history of the object in order that the various parts, 
which we see side by side in nature, may just as 
naturally follow each other in his picture, and, as it 
were, keep pace with the flow of the narrative. , 

He wants, for instance, to paint us the bow of 
Pandarus. It is of horn, of a certain length, well 
polished, and tipped at both ends with gold. What 
does he do ? Does he enumerate these details thus 
drily one after another ? By no means. That would 
be telling off such a bow, setting it as a copy, but 
not painting it. He begins with the hunting of the 
wild goat from whose horns the bow was made. 
Pandarus had lain in wait for him among the rocks 
and slain him. Owing to the extraordinary size of 



100 



LAOCOON. 



the horns, he decided to use them for a bow. They 
come under the workman's hands, who joins them 
together, polishes, and tips them. And thus, as I 
have said, the poet shows us in the process of crea- 
tion, what the painter can only show us as already 
existing.^ • 

ro^ov Iv^oov i^dlov aiydg 
dyQLOv, ov Qo, Ttox avTog arsgvoio tvyricag 
mtQrjg tx^aivovza, dsday^hog tv TtnodoxyaiVj 
fo^li^xEi TtQog attj&og' 6 d' vTtxiog efXTtsas Tthgy. 
zov }t8Qa In xeqjaXrjg txaaLdsHaScoQa necpvnef 
Hal ra fisv aGmjaag xsgaohoog tjQaqE rf/iTcov, 
nav 5' Ev Xeij]vag, ^[Qvaerjv t7tsd^}]'AE xoQcovjp'. 

I should never have done, were I to try to write out 
all the examples of this kind. They will occur in 
numbers to every one familiar with Homer. 

1 Iliad iv. 105-111. 

He uncovered straight 
His polished bow made of the elastic horns 
Of a wild goat, which, from his lurking-place, 
As once it left its cavern lair, he smote, 
And pierced its breast, and stretched it on the rock. 
Full sixteen palms in length the horns had grown 
From the goat's forehead. These an artisan 
Had smoothed, and, aptly fitting each to each, 
Polished the whole and tipped the work with gold. 

Bryant. 



LAOCOON. 



lOI 



XVII. 

But, it may be urged, the signs employed in poetry 
not only follow each other, but are also arbitrary ; 
and, as arbitrary signs, they are certainly capable of 
expressing things as they exist in space. Homer 
himself furnishes examples of this. We have but to 
call to mind his shield of Achilles to have an in- 
stance of how circumstantially and yet poetically a 
single object can be described according to its co- 
existent parts. 

I will proceed to answer this double objection. I 
call it double, because a just conclusion must hold, 
though unsupported by examples, and on the othei 
hand the example of Homer has great weight with 
me, even when I am unable to justify it by rules. 

It is true that since the signs of speech are arbi- 
trary, the parts of a body can by their means be made 
to follow each other as readily as in nature they 
exist side by side. But this is a property of the 
signs of language in general, not of those peculiar 
to poetry. The prose' writer is satisfied with being 
intelligible, and making his representations plain 
and clear. But this is not enough for the poet. He 
desires to present us with images so vivid, that we 
fancy we have the things themselves before us, and 



I02 



LAOCOON. 



cease for the moment to be conscious of his words, 
the instruments with which he effects his purpose. 
That was the point made in the definition given 
above of a poetical picture. But the poet must 
always paint ; and now let us see in how far bodies, 
considered in relation to their parts lying together 
in space, are fit subjects for this painting. 

How do we obtain a clear ideta of a thing in space ? 
First we observe its separate parts, then the union 
of these parts, and finally the whole. Our senses 
perform these various operations with such amazing 
rapidity as to make them seem but one. This rapid- 
ity is absolutely essential to our obtaining an idea of 
the whole, which is nothing more than the result of 
the conception of the parts and of their connection 
with each other. Suppose now that the poet should 
lead us in proper order from one part of the object 
to the other ; suppose he should succeed in making 
the connection of these parts perfectly clear to us ; 
how much time will he have consumed ? 

The details, which the eye takes in at a glance, he 
enumerates slowly one by one, and it often happens 
that, by the time he has brought us to the last, we 
have forgotten the first. Yet from these details we 
are to form a picture. When we look at an object 
the various parts are always present to the eye. It 
can run over them again and again. The ear, how- 
ever, loses the details it has heard, unless memory 
retain them. And if they be so retained, what pains 
and effort it costs to recall their impressions in the 
proper order and with even the moderate degree of 



LAOCOON. 



103 



rapidity necessary to the obtaining of a tolerable idea 
of the whole. 

Let us take an example which may be called a 
masterpiece of its kind. 

Dort ragt das hohe Haupt vom edeln Enziane 
Weit iibern niedern Chor der Pobelkrauter hin, 
Ein ganzes Blumenvolk dient unter seiner Fahne, 
Sein blauer Bruder selbst biickt sich und ehret ihn. 
Der Blumen belles Gold, in Strahlen umgebogen, 
Thiirmt sich am Stengel auf, und kront sein grau Gewand, 
Der Blatter glattes Weiss mit tiefem Griin durchzogen, 
Strahlt von dem bunten Blitz von feuchtem Diamant. 
Gerechtestes Gesetz ! dass Kraft sich Zier vermahle, 
In einem schonen Leib wohnt eine schon're Seele. 

Hier kriecht ein niedrig Kraut, gleich einem grauen Nebel 
Dem die Natur sein Blatt im Kreuze hingelegt. 
Die holde Blume zeigt die zwei vergoldten Schnabel, 
Die ein von Amethyst gebildter Vogel tragt. 
Dort wirft ein glanzend Blatt, in Finger ausgekerbet, 
Auf einen hellen Bach den griinen Wiederschein ; 
Der Blumen zarten Schnee, den matter Purpur farbet, 
Schliesst ein gestreifter Stern in weisse Strahlen ein. 
Smaragd und Rosen bliihn auch auf zertretner Heide, 
Und Felsen decken sich mit einem Purpurkleide.^ 

* Von Haller's Alps. 

The lofty gentian's head in stately grandeur towers 
Far o'er the common herd of vulgar weeds and low ; 
Beneath his banners serve communities of flowers ; 
His azure brethren, too, in rev'rence to him bow. 
The blossom's purest gold in curving radiations 
Erect upon the stalk, above its gray robe gleams ; 
The leaflets' pearly white with deep green variegations 
With flashes raany-hued of the moist diamond beams. 



104 



LAOCOON. 



The learned poet is here painting plants and 
flowers with great art and in strict accordance with 
nature, but there is no illusion in his picture. I do 
not mean that a person who had never seen these 
plants and flowers could form little or no idea of 
them from his description. Perhaps all poetical 
pictures require a previous knowledge of their sub- 
ject. Neither would I deny that a person pos- 
sessing such knowledge might derive from the poet 
a more vivid idea of certain details. I only ask 
how it is with a» conception of the whole. If that is 
to become more vivid, none of the separate details 
must stand in undue prominence, but the new illumi- 
nation must be equally shared by all. Our imag- 
ination must be able to embrace them all with equal 
rapidity in order to form from them in an instant 
that one harmonious whole which the eye takes in 
at a glance. Is that the case here? If not, how 
can it be said, " that the most exact copy produced 
by a painter is dull and faint compared with this 

O Law beneficent ! which strength to beauty plighteth, 
And to a shape so fair a fairer soul uniteth. 

Here on the ground a plant like a gray mist is twining, 

In fashion of a cross its leaves by Nature laid ; 

Part of the beauteous flower, the gilded beak is shining, 

Of a fair bird whose shape of amethyst seems made. 

There into fingers cleft a polished leaf reposes, 

And o'er a limpid brook its green reflection throws ; 

With rays of white a striped star encloses 

The floweret's disk, where pink flushes its tender snows. 

Thus on the trodden heath are rose and emerald glowing, 

And e'en the rugged rocks are purple banners showing. 



LAOCOON. 



105 



poetical description " ? ^ It is far inferior to what 
lines and colors can produce on canvas. The 
critic who bestowed upon it this exaggerated praise 
must have regarded it from an entirely false point 
of view. He must have looked at the foreign graces 
which the poet has woven into his description, at his 
idealization of vegetable life, and his development 
of inward perfections, to which outward beauty 
serves but as the shell. These he was considering, 
and not beauty itself or the degree of resemblance 
and vividness of the image, which painter and poet 
respectively can give us. Upon this last point 
every thing depends, and whoever maintains that 
the lines, 

Der Blumen helles Gold in Strahlen umgebogen, 
Thiirmt sich am Stengel auf, und kront sein grau Gewand, 
Der Blatter glattes Weiss, mit tiefem Griin durchzogen, 
Strahlt von dem bunten Blitz von fruchtem Diamant, 

can vie in vividness of impression with a flower- 
piece by a Huysum, must either never have analyzed 
his own sensations, or must wilfully ignore them. 
It might be very pleasant to hear the lines read if we 
had the flowers in our hand ; but, taken by them- 
selves, they say little or nothing. I hear in every 
word the laborious poet, but the thing itself I am 
unable to see. 

Once more, then, I do not deny that language has 
the power of describing a corporeal whole according 
to its parts. It certainly has, because its signs, 
although consecutive, are nevertheless arbitrary. 
But I deny that this power exists in language as the 

1 Breitinger's kritische Dichtkunst, vol. ii, p. 807. 



io6 



LAOCOON. 



instrument of poetry. For illusion, which is the 
special aim of poetry, is not produced by these 
verbal descriptions of objects, nor can it ever be so 
produced. The coexistence of the body comes into 
collision with the sequence of the words, and although 
while the former is getting resolved into the latter, 
the dismemberment of the whole into its parts is 
a help to us, yet the reunion of these parts into a 
whole is made extremely difficult, and not infre- 
quently impossible. 

Where the writer does not aim at illusion, but is 
simply addressing the understanding of his readers 
with the desire of awakening distinct and, as far as 
possible, complete ideas, then these descriptions of 
corporeal objects, inadmissible as they are in poetry, 
are perfectly appropriate. Not only the prose 
writer, but the didactic poet (for in as far as he 
is didactic he is no poet) may use them with good 
effect. Thus Virgil, in his Georgics, describes a cow 
fit for breeding : — 

Optima torvae 
Forma bovis, cui turpe caput, cui plurima cervix, 
Et crurum tenus a mento palearia pendent. 
Turn longo nullus lateri modus : omnia magna : 
Pes etiam, et camuris hirtas sub cornibus aures. 
Nec mihi displiceat maculis insignis et albo, 
Aut juga detractans interdumque aspera cornu, 
Et faciem tauro propior ; quseque ardua tota, 
Et gradiens ima verrit vestigia cauda.^ 

1 Georg. lib. iii. 51 and 79. 

If her large front and neck vast strength denote ; 
If on her knee the pendulous dewlap float ; 



LAOCOON 



107 



Or a handsome colt : — 

Illi ardua cervix, 
Argutumque caput, brevis alvus, obesaque terga, 
Luxuriatque toris animosum pectus, &cA 

Here the poet is plainly concerned more with the 
setting forth of the separate parts than with the 
effect of the whole. His object is to tell us the char- 
acteristics of a handsome colt and a good cow, so 
that we may judge of their excellence according to 
the number of these characteristics which they pos- 
sess. Whether or not all these can be united into a 
vivid picture was a matter of indifference to him. 

Except for this purpose, elaborate pictures of 
bodily objects, unless helped out by the above-men- 
tioned Homeric device of making an actual series 
out of their coexistent parts, have always been con- 
sidered by the best critics as ineffective trifles, 
requiring little or no genius. " When a poetaster," 

If curling horns their crescent inward bend, 
And bristly hairs beneath the ear defend ; 
If lengthening flanks to bounding measure spread ; 
If broad her foot and bold her bull-like head; 
If snowy spots her mottled body stain. 
And her indignant brow the yoke disdain, 
With tail wide-sweeping as she stalks the dews, 
Thus, lofty, large, and long, the mother choose. 

Dryden. 

1 Georg. lib. iii. 51 and 79. 

Light on his airy crest his slender head, 
His belly short, his loins luxuriant spread ; 
Muscle on muscle knots his brawny breast, &c. 

Drydeh 



io8 



LAOCOON. 



says Horace, "can do nothing else, he talis to 
describing a grove, an altar, a brook winding through 
pleasant meadows, a rushing river, or a rainbow." 

Lucus et ara Dianae, 
Et properantis aquae per amoenos ambitus agros, 
Aut flumen Rhenum, aut pluvius describitur arcus.l 

Pope, when a man, looked back with contempt 
on the descriptive efforts of his poetic childhood. 
He expressly enjoined upon every one, who would 
not prove himself unworthy the name of poet, to 
abandon as early as possible this fondness for 
description. A merely descriptive poem he declared 
to be a feast made up of sauces."'^ Herr Von 
Kleist, I know, prided himself very little on his 
" Spring." Had he lived, he would have refash- 
ioned it altogether. He wanted to introduce into it 
some plan, and was meditating how he could best 
make the crowd of pictures, which seemed to have 
been drawn at random from the whole vast range of 
fresh creation, rise in some natural order and follow 
each other in fitting sequence. He would, at the 
same time, have done what Marmontel, doubtless 
with reference to his Eclogues, recommended to 
several German poets. He would have converted 
a series of pictures scantily interwoven with mental 
emotions, into a series of emotions sparingly inter- 
spersed with images.^ 

1 De Art. Poet. i6. 

2 See Appendix, note 37. 
' See Appendix, note 38. 



I.AOCOON. 



lOQ 



XVIII. 

And shall Homer nevertheless have fallen into those 
barren descriptions of material objects ? 

Let us hope that only a few such passages can be 
cited. And even those few, I venture to assert, will 
be found really to confirm the rule, to which they 
appear to form an exception. 

The rule is this, that succession in time is the 
province of the poet, co-existence in space that of 
the artist. 

To bring together into one and the same picture 
two points of time necessarily remote, as Mazzuoli 
does the rape of the Sabine women and the recon- 
ciliation effected by them between their husbands and 
relations ; or as Titian does, representing in one piece 
the whole story of the Prodigal Son, — his dissolute 
life, his misery, and repentance, — is an encroach- 
ment of the painter on the domain of the poet, which 
good taste can never sanction. 

To try to present a complete picture to the reader 
by enumerating in succession several parts or things 
which in nature the eye necessarily takes in at a 
glance, is an encroachment of the poet on the domain 
of the painter, involving a great effort of the imagi- 
nation to very little purpose. 



I lO 



LAOCOON. 



Painting and poetry should be like two just and 
friendly neighbors, neither of whom indeed is allowed 
to take unseemly liberties in the heart of the other's 
domain, but who exercise mutual forbearance on 
the borders, and effect a peaceful settlement for 
all the petty encroachments which circumstances 
may compel either to make in haste on the rights 
of the other. 

1 will not bring forward in support of this the fact 
that, in large historical pictures the single moment 
of time is always somewhat extended, and that per- 
haps no piece, very rich in figures, can be found, in 
which every character has exactly the motion and 
attitude proper to him at that particular moment. 
The position of some belongs to a preceding point 
of time, that of others to a later. This is a liberty 
which the painter must justify by certain subtleties 
of arrangement, such as placing his figures more in 
the foreground or background, and thus making 
them take a more or less immediate interest in what 
is going on. I will merely quote, in favor of my 
view, a criticism of Mengs on Raphael's drapery.'' 
" There is a reason for all his folds, either in the 
weight of the material or the tension of the limbs. 
We can often infer from their present condition what 
they had been previously. Raphael indeed aimed at 
giving them significance in this way. We can judge 
from the folds whether, previously to the present 
posture, a leg or an arm had been more in front or 

I Gedanken iiber die Schonheit und iiber den Geschmack 
in der Malerei, p. 69. 



LAOCOON. 



more behind, whether a limb had been bent and is 
now straightening itself, or whether it had been out- 
stretched and is now bending." Here unquestion- 
ably the artist unites into one two distinct points of 
time. For, since the foot in its motion forward is 
immediately followed by that portion of the garment 
which rests upon it, — unless indeed the garment be 
of exceedingly stiff material, in which case it is ill 
adapted to painting, — there can be no moment at 
which the drapery assumes in the least degree any 
other fold than the present posture of the limb de- 
mands. If any other be represented, then the fold 
is that of the preceding moment while the position 
of the foot is that of the present. Few, however, 
will be inclined to deal thus strictly with the artist who 
finds it for his interest to bring these two moments 
of time before us at once. Who will not rather 
praise him for having had the wisdom and the cour- 
age to commit a slight fault for the sake of greater 
fulness of expression ? 

A similar indulgence is due to the poet. The con- 
tinuity of his imitation permits him, strictly speak- 
ing, to touch at one moment on only a single side, 
a single property of his corporeal objects. But if 
the happy construction of his language enables him 
to do this with a single word, why should he not 
sometimes be allowed to add a second such word? 
why not a third, if it be worth his while, or even a 
fourth ? As I have said, a ship in Homer is either 
simply the black ship, or the hollow ship, or the 
swift ship ; at most the well-manned black ship. 



112 



LAOCOON. 



That is true of his style in general. Occasionally 
a passage occurs where he adds a third descriptive 
epithet : ^ Ka^7tv).u y.vn/.a, ydh/.sa, oy.xdy.vriua, " round, 
brazen, eight-spoked wheels." Even a fourth : danLdu 
7ZUVT0GS etariV, y.aVjv, yaXydriV^ th'jJMXOv,^ " a uniformly 
smooth, beautiful, brazen, wrought shield." Who 
will not rather thank than blame him for this little 
luxuriance, when we perceive its good effect in a few 
suitable passages ? 

The true justification of both poet and painter 
shall not, however, be left to rest upon this analogy 
of two friendly neighbors. A mere analogy fur- 
nishes neither proof nor justification. I justify them 
in this way. As in the picture the two moments of 
time follow each other so immediately that we can 
without effort consider them as one, so in the poem 
the several touches answering to the different parts 
and properties in sjDace are so condensed, and suc- 
ceed each other so rapidly, that we seem to catch 
them all at once. 

Here, as I have said. Homer is greatly aided by 
his admirable language. It not only allows him all 
possible freedom in multiplying and combining his 
epithets, but enables him to arrange them so happily 
that we are relieved of all awkward suspense with 
regard to the subject. Some of the modern lan- 
guages are destitute of one or more of those advan- 
tages. Those which, like the French, must have 
recourse to paraphrase, and convert the yafiTZvla 
xvKXa, i6Xv.m^ o-/.x6ly.v^^ol of Homer into " the round 

1 Iliad V. 722. 2 Iliad xii. 296. 



LAOCOON. 



wheels which were of brass and had eight spokes," 
give the meaning, but destroy the picture. The 
sense is here, however, nothing ; the picture every 
thing. The one without the other turns the most 
graphic of poets into a tiresome tattler. This fate has 
often befallen Homer under the pen of the consci- 
entious Madame Dacier. The German language can 
generally render the Homeric adjectives by equally 
short equivalents, but it cannot follow the happy 
arrangement of the Greek. It can say, indeed, " the 
round, brazen, eight-spoked ; " but " wheels " comes 
dragging after. Three distinct predicates before 
any subject make but a confused, uncertain picture. 
The Greek joins the subject with the first predicate 
and lets the others follow. He says, " round wheels, 
brazen, eight-spoked." Thus we know at once of 
what he is speaking, and learn first the thing and 
then Its accidents, which is the natural order of our 
thoughts. The German language does not possess 
this advantage. Or shall I say, what really amounts 
to the same thing, that, although possessing it, the 
language can seldom use it without ambiguity.'' For 
if adjectives be placed after the subject (runde Rader, 
ehern und achtspeichigt) they are indeclinable, dif- 
fering in nothing from adverbs, and if referred, as 
adverbs, to the first verb that is predicated of the 
subject, the meaning of the whole sentence becomes 
always distorted, and sometimes entirely falsified. 

But I am lingering over trifles and seem to have 
forgotten the shield of Achilles, that famous picture, 
which more than all else, caused Homer to be 
8 



[14 



LAOCOON. 



regarded among the ancients as a master of painting.^ 
But surely a shield, it may be said, is a single corpo- 
real object, the description of which according to its 
coexistent parts cannot come within the province of 
poetry. Yet this shield, its material, its form, and 
all the figures which occupied its enormous surface, 
Homer has described, in more than a hundred mag- 
nificent lines, so circumstantially and precisely that 
modern artists have found no difficulty in making a 
drawing of it exact in every detail. 

My answer to this particular objection is, that I 
have already answered it. Homer does not paint 
the shield finished, but in the process of creation. 
Here again he has made use of the happy device of 
substituting progression for coexistence, and thus con- 
verted the tiresome description of an object into a 
graphic picture of an action. We see not the shield, 
but the divine master-workman employed upon it. 
Hammer and tongs in hand he approaches the anvil ; 
and, after having forged the plates from the rough 
metal, he makes the pictures designed for its decora- 
tion rise from the brass, one by one, under his finer 
blows. Not till the whole is finished do we lose 
sight of him. At last it is done ; and we wonder at 
the work, but with the believing wonder of an eye- 
witness who has seen it a-making. 

The same cannot be said of the shield of ^neas 
in Virgil. The Roman poet either failed to see the 
fineness of his model, or the things which he wished 

1 Dionysius Halicarnass. in Vita Homeri apud Th. Gale in 
Opusc. Mythol. p. 401. 



LAOCOON. 



to represent upon his shield seemed to him not of 
such a kind as to allow of their being executed before 
our eyes. They were prophecies, which the god 
certainly could not with propriety have uttered in 
our presence as distinctly as the poet explains them 
in his work. Prophecies, as such, require a darker 
speech, in which the names of those persons to come, 
whose fortunes are predicted, cannot well be spoken. 
In these actual names, however, lay, it would seem, 
the chief point of interest to the poet and courtier.^ 
But this, though it excuse him, does not do away with 
the disagreeable effect of his departure from the 
Homeric method, as all readers of taste will admit. 
The preparations made by Vulcan are nearly the 
same in Homer as in Virgil. But while in Homer 
we see, besides the preparations for the work, the 
work itself, Virgil, after showing us the god at work 
with his Cyclops, 

Ingentem clypeum informant . . . 

. . . Alii ventosis follibus auras 

Accipiunt, redduntque ; alii stridentia tingunt 

JEra. lacu. Gemit impositis incudibus antrum. 

Illi inter sese multa vi brachia toUunt 

In numerum, versantque tenaci forcipe massam, 

1 See Appendix, note 39. 

2 iEneid lib. viii. 447. 

Their artful hands a shield prepare. 
One stirs the fire, and one the bellows blows ; 
The hissing steel is in the smithy drowned ; 
The grot with beaten anvils groans around. 
By turns their arms advance in equal time, 
By turns their hands descend and hammers chime j 
They turn the glowing mass with crooked tongs. 

Dryden, 



ii6 



LAOCOON. 



suddenly drops the curtain and transports us to a 
wholly different scene. We are gradually led into 
the valley where Venus appears, bringing ^neas 
the arms that in the mean while have been finished. 
She places them against the trunk of an oak ; and, 
after the hero has sufficiently stared at them, and 
wondered over them, and handled them, and tried 
them, the description or picture of the shield begins, 
which grows so cold and tedious from the constantly 
recurring " here is," and " there is," and " near by 
stands," and " not far from there is seen," that all 
Virgil's poetic grace is needed to prevent it from 
becoming intolerable. Since, moreover, this descrip- 
tion is not given by JEneas, who delights in the mere 
figures without any knowledge of their import, 

. . . rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet, 

nor by Venus, although she might be supposed to 
know as much about the fortunes of her dear grand- 
son as her good-natured husband, but by the poet 
himself, the action meanwhile necessarily remains at 
a stand-still. Not a single one of the characters takes 
part ; nor is what follows in the least affected by the 
representations on the shield. The subtle courtier, 
helping out his material with every manner of flatter- 
ing allusion, is apparent throughout ; but no trace do 
we see of the great genius, who trusts to the intrinsic 
merit of his work, and despises all extraneous means 
of awakening interest. The shield of ^neas is 
therefore, in fact, an interpolation, intended solely to 
flatter the pride of the Romans ; a foreign brook 



LAOCOON. 



117 



with which the poet seeks to give fresh movement to 
his stream. The shield of Achilles, on the contrary, 
is the outgrowth of its own fruitful soil. For a shield 
was needed ; and, since even what is necessary nevei 
comes from the hands of deity devoid of beauty, the 
shield had to be ornamented. The art was in treating 
these ornamentations as such, and nothing more ; 
in so weaving them into the material that when we 
look at that we cannot but see them. This could 
be accomplished only by the method which Homer 
adopted. Homer makes Vulcan devise decorations, 
because he is to make a shield worthy of a divine 
workman. Virgil seems to make him fashion the 
shield for the sake of the decorations, since he deems 
these of sufficient importance to deserve a special 
description long after the shield is finished. 



1x8 



LAOCOON. 



XIX. 

The objections brought against Homer's shield by 
the elder Scaliger, Perrault, Terrasson, and others, 
are well known, as are also the answers of Madame 
Dacier, Boivin, and Pope. But these latter, it seems 
to me, have gone somewhat too far, and confiding in 
the justness of their cause have asserted things incor- 
rect in themselves and contributing little to the poet's 
justification. 

In answer to the chief objection, that Homer had 
burdened his shield with more figures than there 
could possibly have been room for, Boivin under- 
took to show in a drawing how the necessary space 
migbt be obtained. His idea of the various concen- 
tric circles was very ingenious, although there is no 
foundation for it in the poet's words and nothing any- 
where to indicate that shields divided in this way 
were known to the ancients. Since Homer calls 
it (aaxog Ttdvroaa dedaiXcofisvov) a shield, artistically 
wrought on all sides, I should prefer to gain the 
required space by turning to account the concave 
surface. A proof that tlie old artists did not leave 
this empty is furnished in the shield of Minerva 
by Phidias.^ But not only does Boivin fail to seize 
1 See Appendix, note 40. 



LAOCOON. 



tliis advantage, but, by separating into two or three 
pictures what the poet evidently meant for one, 
he unnecessarily multiplies the representations while 
diminishing the space by one-half. I know the 
motive which led him to this, but it was one by which 
he should not have allowed himself to be influenced. 
He should have shown his opponents the unreason- 
ableness of their demands, instead of trying to satisfy 
them. 

An example will make my meaning clear. When 
Homer says of one of the two cities : ^ 

Xaol d' eiv dyogfi eaav dd^gooc ev&a 8s vsixog 
coQagei 8vo 5' avSgsg IvaUzov Eivexa Ttoivrjg 
dvdgog d7toq)d^ifi8vov' 6 fisv aux^ro ndvr dTtoSovvcUf 
87jfi(p 7tiq)av6X(ov, 6 8' dvaivero fA.i]8h slio&ai' 
d}iq)co 8' isa&t]v Im larogi mlgag aXea&ai. 

1 Iliad xviii. 497-508. 

Meanwhile a multitude 
Was in the forum where a strife went on, — 
Two men contending for a fine, the price 
Of one who had been slain.' Before the crowd 
One claimed that he had paid the fine, and one 
Denied that aught had been received, and both 
Called for the sentence which should end the strife 
The people clamored for both sides, for both 
Had eager friends ; the herald held the crowd 
In check ; the elders, upon polished stones, 
Sat in a sacred circle. Each one took 
In turn a herald's sceptre in his hand, 
And rising gave his sentence. In the midst 
Two talents lay in gold, to be the meed 
Of him whose juster judgment should prevail. 

Bryant. 



120 



LAOCOON. 



Xaol 5' dfiqjorsQOiaiv tTZjjTtvov, diicfig aQcayoi, 
y,rjQV'AEg d' OQa Xaov tQrjTVOv oi ds y^QOvtsg 
star In) ^eaxoiai Xidoig lEQa} tvi 'AvxXop, 
axTjTtrga da >c)]ov'A(ov tv y^aQo' eyov 7]eoo(f(6v(ov' 
rolaiv sTteiT 'i])'aaov, d^oi^ridig da dixal^ov. 
TiEiTO 5' d(/ tv fitaaoiai dvco iQvaolo xdXavra, 

he refers, as I understand him, to but a single picture, 
that of a public lawsuit about the contested payment 
of a considerable fine for the committal of a murder. 
The artist, who is to execute this design, can use but 
a single moment of the action, — that of the accusa- 
tion, of the examination of witnesses, of the pro- 
nouncing of the sentence, or any other preceding or 
following or intervening moment which may seem to 
him most fitting. This single moment he makes as 
pregnant as possible, and reproduces it with all that 
power of illusion which in the presentation of visible 
objects art possesses above poetry. Left far behind 
in this respect, what remains to the poet, if his words 
are to paint the same design with any degree of suc- 
cess, but to avail himself of his peculiar advantages ? 
These are the liberty of extending his representation 
over what preceded, as well as what was to follow, 
the artist's single point of time, and the power of 
showing not only what the artist shows, but what he 
has to leave to our imagination. Only by using these 
advantages can the poet raise himself to a level with 
the artist Their works most resemble each other 
when their effect is equally vivid ; not when one brings 
before the imagination through the ear neither more 



LAOCOON. 



121 



nor less than the other presents to the eye. Had 
Boivin defended the passage in Homer according to 
this principle, he would not have divided it into as 
many separate pictures as he thought he detected 
distinct points of time. All that Homer relates 
could not, indeed, be united in a single picture. The 
accusation and the denial, the summoning of the 
witnesses and the shouts of the divided populace, 
the efforts of the heralds to quiet the tumult and the 
sentence of the judges, are things successive in time, 
not coexistent in space. But what is not actually in 
the picture is there virtually, and the only true way of 
representing an actual picture in words is to combine 
what virtually exists in it with what is absolutely 
visible. The poet who allows himself to be bound 
by the limits of art may furnish data for a picture, 
out can never create one of his own. 

The picture of the beleaguered city ^ Boivin divides 
likewise into three. He might as well have made 
twelve out of it as three. For since he has once for 
all failed to grasp the spirit of the poet, and requires 
him to be bound by the unities of a material picture, 
he might have discovered many more violations 
of these unities. In fact he ought almost to have 
devoted a separate space on the shield to every 
separate touch of the poet. In my opinion Homer 
has but ten different pictures on the whole shield, 
every one of which he introduces with ev ^sv hav^Sy 
or Iv ds 7toi7](je, or ev 5' erid'ei, or ev ds Ttomlle. 
^IKfiyvrjeig, "on it he wrought," "on it he placed,'" 

^ Iliad xviii. 509-540. 



122 



LAOCOON. 



* on it he formed," "on it Vulcan skilfully fash- 
ioned."^ In the absence of these introductory words 
we have no right to suppose a distinct picture. On 
the contrary every thing which they cover must be 
regarded as a single whole, wanting in nothing but 
the arbitrary concentration into one moment of time, 
which the poet was in no way bound to observe. 
Had he observed this, and, by strictly limiting him- 
self to it, excluded every little feature which in the 
material representation would have been inconsistent 
with this unity of time ; had he in fact done what his 
cavillers require, — these gentlemen would indeed 
have had no fault to find with him, but neither would 
any person of taste have found aught to admire. 

Pope not only accepted Boivin's drawing, but 
thought he was doing a special service by showing 
that every one of these mutilated pieces was in 
accordance with the strictest rules of painting, as 
laid down at the present day. Contrast, perspec- 
tive, the three unities, he found, were all observed in 
the best possible manner. And although well aware 
that, according to the testimony of good and trust- 
worthy witnesses, painting at the time of the Trojan 
war was still in its cradle, he supposes either that 
Homer, instead of being bound by the achievements 
of painting at that time or in his own day, must in 
virtue of his godlike genius have anticipated all that 
art should in future be able to accomplish, or else 
that the witnesses could not have been so entirely 
worthy of faith that the direct testimony of this 
1 See Appendix, note 41. 



LAOCOON. 



123 



artistic shield should not be preferred to theirs. 
Whoever will, may accept the former supposition : the 
latter, surely, no one will be persuaded to adopt who 
knows any thing more of the history of art than the 
date of the historians. That painting in the time of 
Homer was still in its infancy he believes, not merely 
on the authority of Pliny, or some other writer, but 
chiefly because, judging from the works of art men- 
tioned by the ancients, he sees that even centuries 
later no great progress had been made. The pictures 
of Polygnotus, for instance, by no means stand the 
test which Pope thinks can be successfully applied 
to Homer's shield. The two great works by this 
master at Delphi, of which Pausanias has left a 
circumstantial description,^ were evidently wholly 
wanting in perspective. The ancients had no knowl- 
edge of this branch of art, and what Pope adduces 
as proof that Homer understood it, only proves that 
he has a very imperfect understanding of it himself.^ 

" That Homer," he says, " was not a stranger to 
aerial perspective appears in his expressly marking 
the distance of object from object. He tells us, for 
instance, that the two spies lay a little remote from 
the other figures, and that the oak under which was 
spread the banquet of the reapers stood apart. What 
he says of the valley sprinkled all over with cottages 
and flocks appears to be a description of a large 
country in perspective. And, indeed, a general argu- 
ment for this may be drawn from the number of fig- 
ures on the shield, which could not be all expressed 

1 Phocic. cap. xxv.-xxxi. 2 gee Appendix, note 42. 



124 



LAOCOON. 



in their full size ; and this is therefore a sort of 
proof that the art of lessening them according to 
perspective was known at that time." The mere 
representing of an object at a distance as smaller than 
it would be if nearer the eye, by no means constitutes 
perspective in a picture. Perspective requires a sin- 
gle point of view ; a definite, natural horizon ; and this 
was wanting in the old pictures. In the paintings 
of Polygnotus the ground, instead of being level, 
rose so decidedly at the back that the figures which 
were meant to stand behind seemed to be standing 
above one another. If this was the usual position 
of the various figures and groups, — and that it was 
so may fairly be concluded from the old bas-reliefs, 
where those behind always stand higher than those 
in front, and look over their heads, — then we may 
reasonably take it for granted in Homer, and should 
not unnecessarily dismember those representations 
of his, which according to this treatment might be 
united in a single picture. The double scene in the 
peaceful city, through whose streets a joyous mar- 
riage train was moving at the same time that an 
important trial was going on in the market-place, 
requires thus no double picture. Homer could very 
well think of it as one, since he imagined himself to 
be overlooking the city from such a height as to 
command at once a view of the streets and the 
market. 

My opinion is that perspective in pictures came 
incidentally from scene-painting, which was already 
in its perfection. But the applications of its rules 



LAOCOON. 



T25 



to a single smooth surface was evidently no easy 
matter ; for, even in the later paintings found among 
the antiquities of Herculaneum, there are many and 
various offences against perspective, which would 
now hardly be excusable even in a beginner.^ 

But I will spare myself the labor of collecting my 
desultory observations on a point whereon I may 
hope to receive complete satisfaction from Winkel- 
mann's promised " History of Art." ^ 

1 Betrachtungen iiber die Malerei, p. i8^ 

2 Written in 1763, 



126 



LAOCOON. 



XX. 

To return, then, to my road, if a saunterer can be 
said to have a road. 

What I have been saying of bodily objects in 
general applies with even more force to those which 
are beautiful. 

Physical beauty results from the harmonious action 
of various parts which can be taken in at a glance. 
It therefore requires that these parts should lie 
near together; and, since things whose parts lie 
near together are the proper subjects of painting, 
this art and this alone can imitate physical beauty. 

The poet, who must necessarily detail in succes- 
sion the elements of beauty, should therefore desist 
entirely from the description of physical beauty as 
such. He must feel that these elements arranged 
in a series cannot possibly produce the same effect 
as in juxtaposition ; that the concentrating glance 
which we try to cast back over them immediately 
after their enumeration, gives us no harmonious pic- 
ture ; and that to conceive the effect of certain eyes, 
a certain mouth and nose taken together, unless we 
can recall a similar combination of such parts in 
nature or art, surpasses the power of human imagi- 
nation. 



LAOCOON. 



127 



Here again Homer is the model of all models. 
He says, Nireus was fair ; Achilles was fairer ; 
Helen v/as of godlike beauty. But he is nowhere 
betrayed into a more detailed description of these 
beauties. Yet the whole poem is based upon the 
loveliness of Helen. How a modern poet would 
have revelled in descriptions of it ! 

Even Constantinus Manasses sought to adorn his 
bald chronicle with a picture of Helen. I must 
thank him for the attempt, for I really should not 
know where else to turn for so striking an example 
of the folly of venturing on what Homer's wisdom 
forbore to undertake. When I read in him : ^ 

Tj yvvTj TZSQiKalXrjg, EvocpQvg, svxQOVOtdrrjf 
svTtdQswg, svTTQoacoTtog, ^oojmg, iiovoiQOvg, 
sXixo^Xscpaoog, d^Qo,, ^aQtrcov ysfiov dXaog, 
IsvyioBgayJcov, TQvqjsgd, ndXlog dvrmgvg si^tzvovv, 
to TtQoamTZov xazalevitov, ri Ttagsid Qodo^QOvg, 
TO TtQOCcoTtov ImiaQi, to ^Xicpaqov coQaiov, 
xdXXog dvsmrtjdevTOv, d^drttiatov, avro^QOVv, 
e^aTtts rtjv Xevxozrira QodoiQia tzvqlv^. 

1 " She was a woman right beautiful, with fine eyebrows, of 
clearest complexion, beautiful cheeks ; comely, with large, full 
eyes, with snow-white skin, quick-glancing, graceful ; a grove 
€lled with graces, fair-armed, voluptuous, breathing beauty 
undisguised. The complexion fair, the cheek rosy, the counte- 
nance pleasing, the eye blooming ; a beauty unartificial, un- 
tinted, of its natural color, adding brightness to the brightest 
cherry, as if one should dye ivory with resplendent purple. 
Her neck long, of dazzling wliilcncss ; wlaiice she was called 
the swan-born, beautiful Helen." 



128 



LAOCOON. 



cog 81 Tig rov sXeqjavra ^dxpei XauTtQa TZogcpvQce, 
dei^rj fiaxga, aataXtVHog, 6&tv t^v&ovQyq^ri 
xvxwysvrj ttjv svotctov 'EXsvjjv iQrmcait^Eiv, 
it is like seeing stones rolled up a mountain/ on whose 
summit they are to be built into a gorgeous edifice ; 
but which all roll down of themselves on the other 
side. What picture does this crowd of words leave 
behind ? How did Helen look ? No two readers 
out of a thousand would receive the same impression 
of her. 

But political verses by a monk are, it is true, no 
poetry. Let us hear Ariosto describe his enchantress 
Alcina : ^ — 

1 See Appendix, note 43. 

2 Orlando Furioso, canto vii. st. 11-15. 
Her shape is of such perfect symmetry, 

As best to feign the industrious painter knows ; 

With long and knotted tresses ; to the eye 

Not yellow gold with brighter lustre glows. 

Upon her tender cheek the mingled dye 

Is scattered of the lily and the rose. 

Like ivory smooth, the forehead gay and round 

Fills up the space and forms a fitting bound. 

Two black and slender arches rise above 
Two clear black eyes, say suns of radiant light. 
Which ever softly beam and slowly move ; 
Round these appears to sport in frolic flight, 
Hence scattering all his shafts, the little Love, 
And seems to plunder hearts in open sight. 
Thence, through 'mid visage, does the nose descend. 
Where envy finds not blemish to amend. 

As if between two vales, which softly curl, 
The mouth with vermeil tint is seen to glow ; 



LAOCOON. 



129 



Di persona era tanto ben formata, 
Quanto mai finger san pittori industru 
Con bionda chioma, lunga e annodata, 
Oro non e, che piu risplenda e lustri. 
Spargeasi per la guancia delicata 
Misto color di rose e di ligustri . 
Di terso avorio era la fronte lieta, 
Che lo spazio finia con giusta meta. 

Sotto due negri, e sottilissimi archi 
Son due negri, occhi, anzi due chiari soli 
Pietosi a riguardar, a mover parchi, 
Intorno a cui par ch' Amor scherzi, e voli. 

Within are strung two rows of orient pearl, 
Which her delicious lips shut up or show, 
Of force to melt the heart of any churl, 
However rude, hence courteous accents flow ; 
And here that gentle smile receives its birth. 
Which opes at will a paradise on earth. 

Like milk the bosom, and the neck of snow ; 
Round is the neck, and full and round the breast ; 
Where, fresh and firm, two ivory apples grow. 
Which rise and fall, as, to the margin pressed 
By pleasant breeze, the billows come and go. 
Not prying Argus could discern the rest. 
Yet might the observing eye of things concealed 
Conjecture safely from the charms revealed. 

To all her arms a just proportion bear, 
And a white hand is oftentimes descried, 
Which narrow is and somedeal long, and where 
No knot appears nor vein is signified. 
For finish of that stately shape and rare, 
A foot, neat, short, and round beneath is spied. 
Angelic visions, creatures of the sky, 
Concealed beneath no covering veil can lie. 

William Stev^tart Rose. 

9 



130 



LAOCOON. 



E ch' indi tutta la faretra scarchi, 
E che visibilmente i cori involi. 
Quindi il naso per mezzo il viso scende 
Che non trova 1' invidia ove 1' emende. 

Sotto quel sta, quasi fra due vallette, 
La bocca sparsa di natio cinabro, 
Quivi due filze son di perle elette, 
Che chiude, ed apre un bello e dolce labro; 
Quindi escon le cortesi parolette, 
Da render molle ogni cor rozzo e scabro ; 
Quivi si forma quel soave riso, 
Ch' apre a sua posta in terra il paradiso. 

Bianca neve e il pel collo, e '1 petto latte;, 
II collo e tondo, il petto colmo e largo ; 
Due pome acerbe, e pur d' avorio fatte, 
Vengono e van, come onda al primo margo, 
Quando piacevole aura il mar combatte. 
Non potria 1' altre parti veder Argo, 
Ben si puo giudicar, che corrisponde, 
A quel ch' appar di fuor, quel che s' asconde. 

Mostran le braccia sua misura giusta, 
Et la Candida man spesso si vede, 
Lunghetta alquanto, e di larghezza angusta. 
Dove ne nodo appar, ne vena eccede. 
Si vede al fin de la persona augusta 
II breve, asciutto, e ritondetto piede. 
Gli angelici sembianti nati in cielo 
Non si ponno celar sotto alcun velo. 

Milton, speaking of Pandemonium, says : — 

The work some praise, and some the architect. 

Praise of one, then, is not always praise of the other. 
A work of art may merit great approbation without 
redounding much to the credit of the artist; and. 



LAOCOON. 



again, an artist may justly claim our admiration, even 
when his work does not entirely satisfy us. By 
bearing this in mind we can often reconcile contra- 
dictory judgments, as in the present case. Dolce, 
in his dialogues on painting, makes Aretino speak 
in terms of the highest praise of the above-quoted 
stanzas,^ while I select them as an instance of paint 
ing without picture. We are both right. Dolce 
admires the knowledge of physical beauty which the 
poet shows : I consider only the effect which this 
knowledge, conveyed in words, produces on my 
imagination. Dolce concludes from this knowledge 
that good poets are no less good painters : I, judg- 
ing from the effect, conclude that what painters can 
best express by lines and colors is least capable of 
expression in words. Dolce recommends Ariosto's 
description to all painters as a perfect model of a 
beautiful woman : I recommend it to all poets as the 
most instructive of warnings not to attempt, with 
still greater want of success, what could not but 
fail when tried by an Ariosto. 

It may be that when the poet says, — 

Di persona era tanto ben formata, 
Quanto mai finger san pittori industri, 

he proves himself to have had a complete knowledge 
of the laws of perspective, such as only the most 
industrious artist can acquire from a study of nature 
and of ancient art.^ 
In the words, — 

1 See Appendix, note 44. 2 See Appendix, note 45. 



LAOCOON. 



Spargeasi per la guancia delicata 
Misto color di rose e di ligustri, 

he may show himself to be a perfect master of 
color, — a very Titian.^ His comparing Alcina's 
hair to gold, instead of calling it golden hair, may 
be taken as proof that he objected to the use of 
actual gold in coloring.^ We may even discover in 
the descending nose the profile of those old Greek 
noses, afterwards borrowed by Roman artists from 
the Greek masterpieces.* Of what use is all this 
insight and learning to us readers who want to 
fancy we are looking at a beautiful woman, and 
desire to feel that gentle quickening of the pulses 
which accompanies the sight of actual beauty ? The 
poet may know the relations from which beauty 
springs, but does that make us know them ? Or, if 
we know them, does he show them to us here? or 
does he help us in the least to call up a vivid image 
of them? 

A brow that forms a fitting bound, 
Che lo spazio finia con giusta meta ; 

A nose where envy itself finds nothing to amend, 
Che non trova 1' invidia, ove 1' emende ; 

A hand, narrow, and somewhat long, 

Lunghetta alquanto, e di larghezza angusta ; 

what sort of a picture do these general formulae give 
us ? In the mouth of a drawing-master, directing 
his pupils' attention to the beauties of the academic 
model, they might have some meaning. For the 



I See Appendix, note 46. 2 See Appendix, note 47. 

* See Appendix, note 48. 



LAOCOON. 



Students would have but to look at the model to see 
the fitting bounds of the gay forehead, the fine cut 
of the nose, and the slenderness of the pretty hand. 
But in the poem I see nothing, and am only tor- 
mented by the futility of all my attempts to see 
any thing. 

In this respect Virgil, by imitating Homer's reti- 
cence, has achieved tolerable success. His Dido is 
only the most beautiful i^pulcherrimd) Dido. Any 
further details which he may give, have reference to 
her rich ornaments and magnificent dress. 

Tandem progreditur . . . 

Sidoniam picto chlamydem circumdata limbo : 
Cui pharetra ex auro, crines nodantur in aurum, 
Aurea purpuream subnectit fibula vestem.l 

If, on this account, any should apply to him what 
the old artist said to one of his pupils who had 
painted a gayly decked Helen, — " Since you could 
not paint her beautiful, you have painted her rich," 
— Virgil would answer : " I am not to blame that I 
could not paint her beautiful. The fault lies in the 
limits of my art, within which it is my merit to have 
kept." 

I must not forget here the two odes of Anacreon 
wherein he analyzes the beauty of his mistress and 

1 iEneid iv. 136. 

The queen at length appears ; 

A flowered cymar with golden fringe she wore, 

And at her back a golden quiver bore ; 

Her flowing hair a golden caul restrains ; 

A golden clasp the Tyrian robe sustains. — Dryden, 



134 



LAOCOON. 



of Bathyllus.'^ The device which he uses entirely 
justifies the analysis. He imagines that he has 
before him a painter who is working from his descrip- 
tion. " Thus paint me the hair," he says ; " thus 
the brow, the eyes, the mouth ; thus the neck and 
bosom, the thighs and hands." As the artist could 
execute but one detail at a time, the poet was 
obliged to give them to him thus piecemeal. His 
object is not to make us see and feel, in these 
spoken directions to the painter, the whole beauty of 
the beloved object. He is conscious of the inade- 
quacy of all verbal expression ; and for that reason 
summons to his aid the expression of art, whose 
power of illusion he so extols, that the whole song 
seems rather a eulogium of art than of his lady. 
He sees not the picture but herself, and fancies she 
is about to open her mouth to speak. 

aniytv ^XiiKa yag dvzrjv. 

So, too, in his ode to Bathyllus, the praises of the 
beautiful boy are so mingled with praises of art and 
the artist, that we are in doubt in whose honor the 
song was really written. He selects the most beau- 
tiful parts from various pictures, the parts for which 
the pictures were remarkable. He takes the neck 
from an Adonis, breast and hands from a Mercury, 
the thighs from a Pollux, the belly from a Bacchus, 
until he has the whole Bathyllus as a finished Apollo 
from the artist's hand. 

1 Od. xxviii., xxix. 



LAOCOON. 



liera ds nQoamrtov eatoo, 
rbv ^A8(6n8og TiaQsld-coVy 
s}.Eq)dvtivog ZQa^rikog' 
fieTaixd^iov 8s noiEi 
di8v[A.ag re x^^Q^^ 'Egfiov, 
IloXvdevyteog 8s fit]QOvg, 
jdiovvoij]v 8s vr]8vv. 

rov AftoXkodva 8s rovrov 
nadslcov, Ttoiei Bd&vXXov. 

Thus Lucian, to give an idea of the beauty of 
Panthea, points to the most beautiful female statues 
by the old sculptors.^ What is this but a confession 
j;hat here language of itself is powerless ; that poetry 
stammers, and eloquence grows dumb, unless art 
serve as interpreter. 

1 Eiicovef, § 3, T. ii. p. 461 (edit. Reitz). 



136 



LAO COON. 



XXI. 

But are we not robbing poetry of too much by taking 
from her all pictures of physical beauty ? 

Who seeks to take them from her ? We are only 
warning her against trying to arrive at them by a 
particular road, where she will blindly grope her 
way in the footsteps of a sister art without ever 
reaching the goal. We are not closing against her 
other roads whereon art can follow only with her 
eyes. 

Homer himself, who so persistently refrains from 
all detailed descriptions of physical beauty, that we 
barely learn, from a passing mention, that Helen 
had white arms ^ and beautiful hair,^ even he man- 
ages nevertheless to give us an idea of her beauty, 
which far surpasses any thing that art could do. 
Recall the passage where Helen enters the assembly 
of the Trojan elders. The venerable men see her 
coming, and one says to the others : ^ — 

i Iliad iii. 121. 2 ibij, 219. 

8 Ibid. 156-158. 

Small blame is theirs if both the Trojan knights 

And brazen-mailed Achaians have endured 

So long so many evils for the sake 

Of that one woman. She is wholly like 

In feature to the deathless goddesses. — Bryani. 



LvVOCOON. 



Ov r:'f,ic6ig T()6jag yiai I'v'Avrjiiidag ^^laiovg 
roi^d' dfi(pl yvvaiM noXvv ^qovov akym Tcdaxsif' 
aivag d&avdtr^ai d'erjg eig wTza soMev. 

What can give a more vivid idea of her beauty than 
that cold-blooded age should deem it well worth the 
war which had cost so much blood and so many 
tears ? 

What Homer could not describe in its details, he 
shows us by its effect. Paint us, ye poets, the de- 
light, the attraction, the love, the enchantment of 
beauty, and you have painted beauty itself. Who 
can think of Sappho's beloved, the sight of whom, 
as she confesses, robs her of sense and thought, as 
ugly.? We seem to be gazing on a beautiful and 
perfect form, when we sympathize with the emotions 
which only such a form can produce. It is not Ovid's 
minute description of the beauties of his Lesbia, — 

Quos humeros, quales vidi tetigique lacertos ! 

Forma papillarum quam fuit apta premi ! 
Quam castigate planus sub pectore venter ! 

Quantum et quale latus ! quam juvenile femur ! 

that makes us fancy we are enjoying the same sight 
which he enjoyed ; but because he gives the details 
with a sensuousness which stirs the passions. 

Yet another way in which poetry surpasses art 
in the description of physical beauty, is by turning 
beauty into charm. Charm is beauty in motion, and 
therefore less adapted to the painter than the poet. 
The painter can suggest motion, but his figures are 
really destitute of it. Charm therefore in a picture 



138 



LAOCOON. 



becomes grimace, while in poetry it remains what 
it is, a transitory beauty, which we would fain see 
repeated. It comes and goes, and since we can 
recall a motion more vividly and easily than mere 
forms and colors, charm must affect us more strongly 
than beauty under the same conditions. All that 
touches and pleases in the picture of Alcina is 
charm. Her eyes impress us not from their black- 
ness and fire, but because they are — 

Pietosi a riguardar, a mover parchi, 

they move slowly and with gracious glances, because 
Cupid sports around them and shoots from them 
his arrows. Her mouth pleases, not because ver- 
milion lips enclose two rows of orient pearls, but 
because of the gentle smile, which opens a paradise 
on earth, and of the courteous accents that melt the 
rudest heart. The enchantment of her bosom lies 
not so much in the milk and ivory and apples, that 
typify its whiteness and graceful form, as in its 
gentle heavings, like the rise and fall of waves under 
a pleasant breeze. 

Due pome acerbe, e pur d' avorio fatte, 
Vengono e van, come onda al primo margo, 
Quando piacevole aura il mar combatte. 

I am convinced that such traits as these, compressed 
into one or two stanzas, would be far more effective 
than the five over which Ariosto has spread them, 
interspersed with cold descriptions of form much 
too learned for our sensibilities. 

Anacreon preferred the apparent absurdity of re- 



LAOCOON. 



quiring impossibilities of the artist, to leaving the 
image of his mistress unenlivened with these mobile 
charms. 

TQVq)BQOV 5' 8603 ySVSlOV 

TZSQi Xvydivcp TQaxijlq) 
XccQitsg Tthoivto naaai. 

He bids the artist let all the graces hover about 
her tender chin and marble neck. How so ? literally ? 
But that is beyond the power of art. The painter 
could give the chin the most graceful curve and the 
prettiest dimple, Amoris digitulo impressum (for the 
icrco here seems to me to mean dimple) ; he could 
give the neck the softest pink, but that is all. The 
motion of that beautiful neck, the play of the mus- 
cles, now deepening and now half concealing the 
dimple, the essential charm exceeded his powers. 
The poet went to the limits of his art in the attempt 
to give us a vivid picture of beauty, in order that 
the painter might seek the highest expression in 
his. Here we have, therefore, a fresh illustration 
of what was urged above, that the poet, even when 
speaking of a painting or statue, is not bound to 
confine his description within the limits of art. 



I40 LAOCOON. 



XXII. 

Zeuxis painted a Helen, and had the courage to 
write beneath his picture those famous lines of 
Homer wherein the elders express their admiration 
of her beauty. Never did painting and poetry engage 
in closer rivalry. Victory remained undecided, and 
both deserved to be crowned. 

For as the wise poet showed us only in its effects 
the beauty which he felt the impossibility of describ- 
ing in detail, so the equally wise painter exhibited 
beauty solely through its details, deeming it unworthy 
of his art to have recourse to any outward aids. 
His whole picture was the naked figure of Helen. 
For it was probably the same that he painted for the 
people of Cortona.^ 

Let us, for curiosity's sake, compare with this Cay- 
lus's picture as sketched for modern artists from the 
same lines of Homer. 

" Helen, covered with a white veil, appears in the 
midst of several old men, Priam among the number, 
who should be at once recognizable by the emblems 
of his royal dignity. The artist must especially ex- 
ert his skill to make us feel the triumph of beauty 

1 Val. Maximus lib. iii. cap. 7. Dionysiui Halicarnass, 
Art. Rhet. cap. 12. nepi Xoyuv k^erdoeof:. 



LAOCOON. 



14^ 



in the eager glances and expressions of astonished 
admiration on the countenances of the old men. 
The scene is over one of the gates of the town. 
The background of the painting may be lost either 
in the open sky or against the higher buildings of 
the town. The first would be the bolder, but the 
one would be as suitable as the other." 

Imagine this picture, executed by the greatest 
master of our time, and compare it with the work of 
Zeuxis. Which will show the real triumph of beauty ? 
This, where I feel it myself, or that, where I am to 
infer it from the grimaces of admiring graybeards ? 
" Turpe senilis amor ! " Looks of desire make the 
most reverend face ridiculous, and an old man who 
shows the cravings of youth is an object of disgust. 
This reproach cannot be brought against the Homeric 
elders. Theirs is but a passing spark of feeling 
which wisdom instantly stifles j an emotion which 
does honor to Helen without disgracing them- 
selves. They acknowledge their admiration, but add 
at once, ^ — 

alia 'Aoi (og, toitj tcsq hova, Iv vr]VGi vssad-co, 

This decision saves them from being the old cox- 
combs which they look like in Caylus's picture. 
And what is the sight that fixes their eager looks ? 
A veiled, mufiied figure. Is that Helen? I cannot 

1 So be it ; let her, peerless as she is, 
Return on board the fleet, nor stay to bring 
Disaster upon us and all our race. — Bryant. 



142 



LAOCOON. 



conceive what induced Caylus to make her wear a 
veil. Homer, to be sure, expressly gives her one» 

avrUa 5' aQyEvvfjat xaXvxpafievi] o&ovyaiv 
(OQ^ax fcx &aXufA,OLO^ 

" She left her chamber, robed and veiled in white,'' 

but only to cross the street in. And although he 
makes the elders express their admiration before she 
could have had time to take it off or throw it back, 
yet they were not seeing her then for the first time. 
Their confession need not therefore have been caused 
by the present hasty glance. They might often 
have felt what, on this occasion, they first acknowl- 
edged. There is nothing of this in the picture. 
When I behold the ecstasy of those old men, I want 
to see the cause, and, as I say, am exceedingly 
surprised to perceive nothing but a veiled, muffled 
figure, at which they are staring with such devotion. 
What of Helen is there ? Her white veil and some- 
thing of her outline, as far as outline can be traced 
beneath drapery. But perhaps the Count did not 
mean that her face should be covered. In that case, 
although his words — " Helene couverte d'un voile 
blanc " — hardly admit of such an interpretation, 
another point excites my surprise. He recommends 
to the artist great care in the expression of the old 
men's faces, and wastes not a word upon the beauty 
of Helen's. This modest beauty, approaching tim- 
idly, her eyes moist with repentant tears, — is, then, 
the highest beauty so much a matter of course to 
our artists, that they need not be. reminded of it? or 



LAOCOON. 



is expression more than beauty? or is it with pic- 
tures as with the stage, where we are accustomed to 
accept the ugliest of actresses for a ravishing prin- 
cess, if her prince only express the proper degree 
of passion for her. 

Truly this picture of Caylus would be to that of 
Zeuxis as pantomime to the most sublime of poetry. 

Homer was unquestionably more read formerly 
than now, yet we do not find mention of many 
pictures drawn from him even by the old artists.-^ 
They seem diligently to have availed themselves of 
any individual physical beauties which he may have 
pointed out. They painted these, well knowing that 
in this department alone they could vie with the 
poet with any chance of success. Zeuxis painted 
besides Helen a Penelope, and the Diana of Apelles 
was the goddess of Homer attended by her nymphs. 

I will take this opportunity of saying that the 
passage in Pliny referring to this picture of Apelles 
needs correcting.^ But to paint scenes from Homer 
merely because they afforded a rich composition, 
striking contrasts, and artistic shading, seems not to 
have been to the taste of the old artists ; nor could 
it be, so long as art kept within the narrow limits of 
its own high calling. They fed upon the spirit of 
the poet, and filled their imagination with his noblest 
traits. The fire of his enthusiasm kindled theirs. 
They saw and felt with him. Thus their works 
became copies of the Homeric, not in the relation of 

1 Fabricii Biblioth. Graec. lib. ii. cap. 6, p. 345. 

2 See Appendix, note 49. 



144 



LAOCOON. 



portrait to original, but in the relation of a son to a 
father, — like, but different. The whole resemblance 
often lies in a single trait, the other parts being 
alike in nothing but in their harmony with that. 

Since, moreover, the Homeric masterpieces of 
poetry were older than any masterpiece of art, for 
Homer had observed nature with the eye of an 
artist before either Phidias or Apelles, the artists 
naturally found ready made in his poems many 
valuable observations, which they had not yet had 
time to make for themselves. These they eagerly 
seized upon, in order that, through Homer, they 
might copy nature. Phidias acknowledged that the 
lines,^ — 

xal xvavsyaiv In ocpQvGi vEvas Kgorimv 
dfi^Qoaiai 5' aga xouT^c^t STteQQCoaavto avanrog 
KQarog aii dd-avdtoio' [isyav 5* sXsXi^sv'OXvfiTtov, 

served him as the model of his Olympian Jupiter, 
and that only through their help had he succeeded in 
making a godlike countenance, "propemodum ex 
ipso coelo petitum." Whoever understands by this 
merely that the imagination of the artist was fired 
by the poet's sublime picture, and thus made capable 
of equally sublime representations, overlooks, I think, 

1 Iliad i. 528. Valerius Maximus, lib. iii. cap. 7. 
As thus he spoke the son of Saturn gave 
The nod with his dark brows. The ambrosial curls 
Upon the Sovereign One's immortal head 
Were shaken, and with them the mightj mount 
Olympus trembled.— Bryant. 



LAOCOON. 



the chief point, and contents himself with a gen- 
eral statement where something very special and 
much more satisfactory is meant. Phidias here 
acknowledges also, as I understand him, that this 
passage first led him to notice how much expression 
lies in the eyebrows, " quanta pars animi " is shown 
in them. Perhaps it further induced him to bestow 
more attention upon the hair, in order to express in 
some degree what Homer calls ambrosial curls. 
For it is certain that the old artists before Phidias 
had very little idea of the language and significance 
of the features, and particularly neglected the hair. 
Even Myron was faulty in both these respects, as 
Pliny observes,^ and, according to the same author- 
ity, Pythagoras Leontinus was the first who dis- 
tinguished himself by the beauty of his hair. Other 
artists learned from the works of Phidias what 
Phidias had learned from Homer. 

I will mention another example of the same kind 
which has always given me particular pleasure. Ho- 
garth passes the following criticism on the Apollo 
Belvidere.^ "These two masterpieces of art, the 
Apollo and the Antinous, are seen together in 
the same palace at Rome, where the Antinous fills 
the spectator with admiration only, whilst the Apollo 
strikes him with surprise, and, as travellers express 
themselves, with an appearance of something more 
than human, which they of course are always at a 
loss to describe ; and this effect, they say, is the more 

1 See Appendix, note 50. 

2 Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty, chap. xi. 

10 



146 



LAOCOON. 



astonishing, as, upon examination, its disproportion 
is evident even to a common eye. One of the best 
sculptors we have in England, who lately went to 
see them, confirmed to me what has been now said, 
particularly as to the legs and thighs being too long 
and too large for the upper parts. And Andrea 
Sacchi, one of the great Italian painters, seems to 
have been of the same opinion, or he would hardly 
have given his Apollo, crowning Pasquilini the musi- 
cian, the exact proportion of the Antinous (in a 
famous picture of his now in England), as otherwise 
it seems to be a direct copy from the Apollo. 

" Although in very great works we often see an 
inferior part neglected, yet here this cannot be the 
case, because in a fine statue, just proportion is one 
of its essential beauties ; therefore it stands to 
reason, that these limbs must have been lengthened 
on purpose, otherwise it might easily have been 
avoided. 

" So that if we examine the beauties of this figure 
thoroughly, we may reasonably conclude, that what 
has been hitherto thought so unaccountably excel- 
lent in its general appearance, hath been owing to 
what hath seemed a blemish in a part of it." 

All this is very suggestive. Homer also, I would 
add, had already felt and noticed the same thing, — 
that an appearance of nobility is produced by a dis- 
proportionate size of the foot and thigh. For, when 
Antenor is comparing the figure of Ulysses with 
that of Menelaus, he says,^ — 
* Iliad iii. 21a 



LAOCOON. 



6rdvroov (asv MsvsXaog vmigex^'^ evQsag ojfiofjigy 
aiAcpo) 8' sl^o{isvco, ysQagcoreQog tjev 'Odvcasvg. 

"When both were standing Menelaus overtopped 
him by his broad shoulders ; but when both were 
sitting, Ulysses was the more majestic." Since, 
when seated, Ulysses gained in dignity what Mene- 
laus lost, we can easily tell the proportion which the 
upper part of the body in each bore to the feet 
and thighs. In Ulysses the upper part was large in 
proportion to the lower : in Menelaus the size of the 
lower parts was large in proportion to that of the 
upper. 



148 



LAOCOON. 



XXIII. 

A SINGLE incongruous part may destroy the harmo- 
nious effect of many beauties, without, however, 
making the object ugly. Ugliness requires the 
presence of several incongruous parts which we 
must be able to take in at a glance if the effect pro- 
duced is to be the opposite of that which we call 
beauty. 

Accordingly ugliness in itself can be no subject 
for poetry. Yet Homer has described its extreme in 
Thersites, and described it by its coexistent parts. 
Why did he allow himself in the case of ugliness 
what he wisely refrained from as regards beauty ? 
Will not the effect of ugliness be as much hindered 
by the successive enumeration of its elements, as 
the effect of beauty is neutralized by a similar treat- 
ment ? 

Certainly it will, and therein lies Homer's justifi- 
cation. The poet can make ugliness his theme only 
because it acquires through his description a less 
repulsive aspect, and ceases in a measure to produce 
the effect of ugliness. What he cannot employ by 
itself, he uses as an ingredient to excite and strengthen 
certain mixed impressions, with which he must enter^ 
tain us in the absence of those purely agreeable. 



LAOCOON. 



149 



These mixed sensations are those of the ridic- 
ulous and the horrible. 

Homer makes Thersites ugly in order to make 
him ridiculous. Mere ugliness, however, would not 
have this effect. Ugliness is imperfection, and the 
ridiculous requires a contrast between perfections 
and imperfections.^ This is the explanation of my 
friend, to which I would add that this contrast must 
not be too sharp and decided, but that the oppo- 
sites must be such as admit of being blended into 
each other. All the ugliness of Thersites has not 
made the wise and virtuous ^sop ridiculous. A 
silly, monkish conceit sought to transfer to the 
writer the yaXoiov of his instructive fables by repre- 
senting his person as deformed. But a misshapen 
body and a beautiful soul are like oil and vinegar, 
which, however much they may be stirred together, 
will always remain distinct to the taste. They give 
rise to no third. Each one produces its own effect, 
— the body distaste, the soul delight. The two 
emotions blend into one only when the misshapen 
body is at the same time frail and sickly, a hinder- 
ance and source of injury to the mind. The result, 
however, is not laughter, but compassion ; and the 
object, which before we had simply respected, now 
excites our interest. The frail, misshapen Pope 
must have been more interesting to his friends than 
the strong, handsome Wycherley. 

But although Thersites is not ridiculous on account 

* Philos. Schriften dcs Herrn Moses Mendelssohn, vol. ii 



LAOCOON. 



of his Ugliness alone, he would not be ridiculous 
without it. Many elements work together to produce 
this result ; the ugliness of his person corresponding 
with that of his character, and both contrasting 
with the idea he entertains of his own importance, 
together with the harmlessness, except to himself, 
of his malicious tongue. The last point is the ov 
(p&aQimov (the undeadly), which Aristotle^ takes to 
be an indispensable element of the ridiculous. My 
friend also makes it a necessary condition that the 
contrast should be unimportant, and not interest us 
greatly. For, suppose that Thersites had had to pay 
dearly for his spiteful detraction of Agamemnon, 
that it had cost him his life instead of a couple of 
bloody wales, then we should cease to laugh at him. 
To test the justice of this, let us read his death in 
Quintus Calaber.^ Achilles regrets having slain 
Penthesilea. Her noble blood, so bravely shed, 
claims the hero's respect and compassion, feelings 
which soon grow into love. The slanderous Ther- 
sites turns this love into a crime. He inveighs 
against the sensuality which betrays even the bravest 
of men into follies : 

Koi TtiWTOv mg sona. 

Achilles' wrath is kindled. Without a word he 
deals him such a blow between cheek and ear 
that teeth, blood, and life gush from the wound. 
This is too barbarous. The angry, murderous Achil- 

1 De Poetica, cap. v. 2 Paralipom. lib. L 720-778. 



LAOCOON. 



les becomes more an object of hate to me than 
the tricky, snarling Thersites. The shout of delight 
raised by the Greeks at the deed offends me. My 
sympathies are with Diomedes, whose sword is drawn 
on the instant to take vengeance on the murderer of 
his kinsman. For Thersites as a man is of my kin 
also. 

But suppose that the attempts of Thersites had 
resulted in open mutiny ; that the rebellious people 
had actually taken to the ships, and treacherously 
aoandoned their commanders, who thereupon had 
fallen into the hands of a vindictive enemy; and 
that the judgment of the gods had decreed total 
destruction to fleet and nation : how should we then 
view the ugliness of Thersites ? Although harmless 
ugliness may be ridiculous, hurtful ugliness is always 
horrible. 

I cannot better illustrate this than by a couple of 
admirable passages from Shakespeare. Edmund, 
bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear, 
is no less a villain than Richard, Duke of Glouces- 
ter, who, by the most hideous crimes, paved his way 
to the throne, which he ascended under the title of 
Richard the Third. Why does he excite in us 
far less disgust and horror? When the bastard 
says,^ — 

Thou, nature, art my goddess ; to thy law 
My services are bound ; wherefore should I 
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit 
The curiosity of nations to deprive me, 



King Lear, Act i. scene 2. 



152 



LAOCOON. 



For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines 

Lag of a brother ? Why bastard ? wherefore base ? 

When my dimensions are as well compact, 

My mind as generous, and my shape as true 

As honest Madam's issue ? why brand they thus 

With base ? with baseness ? bastardy ? base, base ? 

Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take 

More composition and fierce quality, 

Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed, 

Go to creating a whole tribe of iopi 

Got 'tween asleep and wake ? 

I hear a devil speaking, but in the form of an angel 
of light. 

When, on the contrary, the Earl of Gloucester 
says,^ — 

But I, — that am not shaped for sportive tricks, 

Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass ; 

I, that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty; 

To strut before a wanton, ambling nymph ; 

I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion, 

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature, 

Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time 

Into this breathing world, scarce half made up, 

And that so lamely and unfashionably, 

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them ; 

Why I, in this weak piping time of peace, 

Have no delight to pass away the time ; 

Unless to spy my shadow in the sun, 

And descant on mine own deformity ; 

And, therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, 

To entertain these fair, well-spoken days, 

I am determined to prove a villain. 

I hear a devil and see a devil, in a shape which only 
the devil should wear. 

1 King Richard III. Act i. scene i. 



LAOCOON 



XXIV. 

Such is the use which the poet makes of ugliness of 
form. How can the painter legitimately employ- 
it? 

Painting as imitative skill can express ugliness ; 
painting as a fine art will not express it. In the 
former capacity its sphere extends over all visible 
objects j in the latter it confines itself to those 
which produce agreeable impressions. 

But do not disagreeable impressions please in the 
imitation? Not all. An acute critic has already 
remarked this in respect of disgust.^ " Representa- 
tions of fear," he says, " of sadness, horror, com- 
passion, &c., arouse painful emotions only in so far 
as we believe the evil to be actual. The considera- 
tion that it is but an illusion of art may resolve 
these disagreeable sensations into those of pleasure. 
But, according to the laws of imagination, the dis- 
agreeable sensation of disgust arises from the mere 
representation in the mind, whether the object be 
thought actually to exist or not. No matter how 
apparent the art of the imitation, our wounded sensi- 
bilities are not relieved. Our discomfort arose not 
from the belief that the evil was actual, but from the 

1 Brief e, die neueste Liter atur betreffend, Part v. p. 102. 



154 



LAOCOON. 



mere representation which is actually present. The 
feeling of disgust, therefore, comes always from 
nature, never from imitation." 

The same criticism is applicable to physical ugli- 
ness. This also wounds our sight, offends our taste 
foi order and harmony, and excites aversion without 
regard to the actual existence of the object in which 
we perceive it. We wish to see neither Thersites 
himself nor his image. If his image be the less 
displeasing, the reason is not that ugliness of shape 
ceases to be ugly in the imitation, but that we pos- 
sess the power of diverting our minds from this 
ugliness by admiration of the artist's skill. But this 
satisfaction is constantly disturbed by the thought 
of the unworthy use to which art has been put, and 
our esteem for the artist is thereby greatly dimin- 
ished. 

Aristotle adduces another reason ^ for the pleasure 
we take in even the most faitliful copy of what in 
nature is disagreeable. He attributes this pleasure 
to man's universal desire for knowledge. We are 
pleased when we can learn from a copy ti haaxov, 
what each and every thing is, or when we can con- 
clude from it oxi ovxog extivog, that it is the very thing 
we already know. But this is no argument in favor 
of the imitation of ugliness. The pleasure which 
arises from the gratification of our desire for knowl- 
edge is momentary and only incidental to the object 
with regard to which it has been satisfied, whereas 
the discomfort which accompanies the sight of ugli- 
1 De Poetica, cap. iv. 



i^AOCOON. 



ness is permanent, and essential to the object caus- 
ing it. How, then, can one counterbalance the other ? 
Still less can the trifling entertainment of tracing a 
likeness overcome the unpleasant impression pro- 
duced by ugliness. The more closely I compare the 
ugly copy with the ugly original, the more I expose 
myself to this influence, so that the pleasure of 
the comparison soon disappears, leaving nothing 
behind but the painful impression of this twofold 
ugliness. 

From the examples given by Aristotle he appears 
not to include ugliness of form among the disagree- 
able things which may give pleasure in the imita- 
tion. His examples are wild beasts and dead bodies. 
Wild beasts excite terror even when they are not 
uglyj and this terror, not their ugliness, may be 
made to produce sensations of pleasure through 
imitation. So also of dead bodies. Keenness of 
sympathy, the dreadful thought of our own anni- 
hilation, make a dead body in nature an object of 
aversion. In the imitation the sense of illusion 
robs sympathy of its sharpness, and, by the addition 
of various palliating circumstances, that disturbing 
element may be either entirely banished or so insep- 
arably interwoven with these softening features, that 
terror is almost lost in desire. 

Since, then, ugliness of form, from its exciting 
sensations of pain of a kind incapable of being 
converted by imitation into pleasurable emotions, 
cannot in itself be a fitting subject for painting as a 
fine art, the question arises whether it may not be 



LAOCOON. 



employed in painting as in poetry as an ingredient 
for strengthening other sensations. 

May painting make use of deformity in the attain- 
ment of the ridiculous and horrible? 

I will not venture to answer this question abso- 
lutely in the negative. Unquestionably, harmless 
ugliness can be ridiculous in painting also, especially 
when united with an affectation of grace and dignity. 
Equally beyond question is it that hurtful ugliness 
excites terror in a picture as well as in nature, and 
that the ridiculous and the terrible, in themselves 
mixed sensations, acquire through imitation an added 
degree of fascination. 

But I must call attention to the fact that painting 
and poetry do not stand upon the same footing in 
this respect. In poetry, as I have observed, ugliness 
of form loses its disagreeable effect almost entirely 
by the successive enumeration of its coexistent parts. 
As far as effect is concerned it almost ceases to be 
ugliness, and can thus more closely combine with 
other appearances to produce new and different 
impressions. But in painting ugliness is before our 
eyes in all its strength, and affects us scarcely less 
powerfully than in nature itself. Harmless ugliness 
cannot, therefore, long remain ridiculous. The dis- 
agreeable impression gains the mastery, and what 
was at first amusing becomes at last repulsive. Nor 
is the case different with hurtful ugliness. The 
element of terror gradually disappears, leaving the 
deformity unchanging and unrelieved. 

Count Caylus was therefore right in omitting the 



LAOCOON. 



1.57 



episode of Thersites from his series of Homeric 
pictures. But are we justified in wishing it out 
of Homer ? I perceive with regret that this is done 
by one critic whose taste is otherwise unerring.^ I 
postpone further discussion of the subject to a future 
occasion. 

^ Klotzii Epistolae Homericae, p. 33 et s«q. 



158 



LAOCOON. 



XXV. 

The second distinction mentioned by the critic just 

quoted, between disgust and other disagreeable emo- 
tions, appears in the distaste which deformity excites 
in us. 

"Other disagreeable passions," he says,^ "may 
sometimes, in nature as well as in art, produce grat- 
ification, because they never arouse pure pain. Their 
bitterness is always mixed with satisfaction. Our 
fear is seldom devoid of hope ; terror rouses all our 
powers to escape the danger ; anger is mixed with a 
desire for vengeance ; sadness, with the pleasant 
recollection of former happiness ; and compassion 
is inseparable from the tender sentiments of love 
and good-will. The mind is at liberty to dwell 
now on the agreeable, and now on the disagreeable 
side, and thus to obtain a mingling of pleasure and 
pain, more delightful than the purest pleasure. Very 
little study of ourselves will furnish us with abun- 
dant instances. Why else is his anger dearer to an 
angry man and his sadness to a melancholy one, 
than all the cheerful images by which we strive to 
soothe him? Quite different is the case with dis- 
gust and its kindred sensations. Here the mind is 

1 Klotzii Epistolae Homericae, p. 103. 



LAOCOON. 



conscious of no perceptible admixture of pleasure. 
A feeling of uneasiness gains the mastery, and under 
no imaginable conditions in nature or art would the 
mind fail to recoil with aversion from representa- 
tions of this nature." 

Very true ; but, since the critic acknowledges the 
existence of other sensations nearly akin to that of 
disgust, and producing, like that, nothing but pain, 
what answers more nearly to this description than 
emotions excited by the sight of physical deformity ? 
These are not only kindred to that of disgust, but 
they resemble it in being destitute of all admixture 
of pleasure in art as well as in nature. Under no 
imaginable conditions, therefore, would the mind 
fail to recoil with aversion from such representa- 
tions. 

This aversion, if I have analyzed my feelings with 
sufficient care, is altogether of the nature of disgust. 
The sensation which accompanies the sight of phys- 
ical deformity is disgust, though a low degree of it. 
This, indeed, is at variance with another remark of 
our critic, according to which only our more occult 
senses — those of taste, smell, and touch — are capa- 
ble of receiving impressions of disgust. " The first 
two," he says, "from an excessive sweetness, and 
the latter from an extreme softness of bodies which 
offer too slight resistance to the fibres coming in 
contact with them. Such objects, then, become 
intolerable to the sight, but solely through the asso- 
ciation of ideas, because we remember how disagree- 
able they were to our sense of taste, smell, or touch. 



i6o 



LAOCOON. 



For, strictly speaking, there are no objects of dir 
gust to the eyes." I think, however, that some 
might be mentioned. A mole on the face, a hare-lip, 
a flattened nose with prominent nostrils, are deform- 
ities which offend neither taste, smell, nor touch. 
Yet the sight of them excites in us something much 
more nearly resembling disgust than we feel at sight 
of other malformations, such as a club-foot or a 
hump on the back. The more susceptible the tem- 
perament, the more distinctly are we conscious, when 
looking at such objects, of those motions in the 
body which precede nausea. That these motions 
soon subside, and rarely if ever result in actual 
sickness, is to be explained by the fact that the eye 
receives in and with the objects causing them such a 
number of pleasing images that the disagreeable 
impressions are too much weakened and obscured 
to exert any marked influence on the body. The 
more occult senses of taste, smell, and touch, on 
the contrary, cannot receive other impressions when 
in contact with the repulsive object. The element 
of disgust operates in full force, and necessarily 
produces much more violent effects upon the body. 

The same rules hold of things loathsome as of 
things ugly, in respect of imitation. Indeed, since 
the disagreeable effect of the former is the more 
violent, they are still less suitable subjects of paint- 
ing or poetry. Only because the effect is softened 
by verbal expression, did I venture to assert that 
the poet might employ certain loathsome traits as 
an ingredient in such mixed sensations as can with 



LAOCOON. 



l6l 



good effect be strengthened by the use of ugli- 
ness. 

The ridiculous may be heightened by an element 
of disgust j representations of dignity and propriety 
likewise become ludicrous when brought into con- 
trast with the disgusting. Examples of this abound 
in Aristophanes. I am reminded of the weasel that 
interrupted the worthy Socrates in his astronomical 
observations.^ 

MAQ. TZQCorjv ds ye yvm^i^v [xsydXriV dq)riQ8d-Tj 

V7t daxaXa^cozov. 2^TP. riva rgonov ; ^ictTSLTZs fioi, 

MA 0. ^TjTOvvxog avzov trjg Geh]vr]g rag odovg 

'Aai tag TteQiqjogdg, elr dvco xepjVOTog 

drto trig ogoqjtjg vvxtojq yaXecoztjg xarexsosv. 

ZTP. ijadTiv yaXsoorri xaraxsoani ^co^Agdrovg. 

If what fell into the open mouth had not been 
disgusting, there would be nothing ludicrous in the 
story. 

An amusing instance of this occurs in the Hot- 
tentot story of Tquassouw and Knonmquaiha, attrib- 
uted to Lord Chesterfield, which appeared in the 
" Connoisseur," an English weekly, full of wit and 
humor. The filthiness of the Hottentots is well 
known, as also the fact of their regarding as beau- 
tiful and holy what excites our disgust and aversion. 
The pressed gristle of a nose, flaccid breasts descend- 

1 Nubes, 170-174. Disciple. But he was lately deprived of 
a great idea by a weasel. Strepsiades, In what way ? tell me. 
Disciple. He was studying the courses of the moon and her 
revolutions, and, while gazing upward open-mouthed, a weasel 
in the dark dunged upon him from the roof. 

II 



t62 



LAOCOON. 



ing to the navel, the whole body anointed with a 
varnish of goat's fat and soot, melted in by the sun, 
hair dripping with grease, arms and legs entwined 
with fresh entrails, — imagine all this the object of 
an ardent, respectful, tender love ; listen to expres- 
sions of this love in the noble language of sincerity 
and admiration, and keep from laughing if you 
can.^ 

The disgusting seems to admit of being still more 
closely united with the terrible. What we call the 
horrible is nothing more than a mixture of the 
elements of terror and disgust. Longinus^ takes 
offence at the "Tijg fcx iih givrnv fiv^ai qeov (mucus 
flowing from the nostrils) in Hesiod's picture of 
Sorrow ; ^ but not, I think, so much on account of the 
loathsomeness of the trait, as from its being simply 
loathsome with no element of terror. For he does not 
seem inclined to find fault with the fia>iQoi d' ow/e? 
lEiQEaGiv vTt^Gav, the long nails projecting beyond the 
fingers. Long nails are not less disgusting than a 
running nose, but they are at the same time terrible. 
It is they that tear the cheeks till the blood runs to 
the ground : 

. . . fcx ds Ttageioov 
alii' aTtelei^et' €Qa^s . . . 

The other feature is simply disgusting, and I should 
advise Sorrow to cease her crying. 

1 See Appendix, note 51. 

2 IlepiT^ouf, Tfx^fia ^. p. 15 (edit. T. Fabri). 
* Scut. Hercul. 266. 



LAOCOON. 



163 



Read Sophocles' description of the desert cave ol 
his wretched Philoctetes. There are no provisions 
to be seen, no comforts beyond a trampled litter of 
dried leaves, an unshapely wooden bowl, and a 
tinder-box. These constitute the whole wealth of 
the sick, forsaken man. How does the poet com- 
plete the sad and frightful picture ? By introducing 
the element of disgust. " Ha ! " Neoptolemus draws 
back of a sudden, "here are rags drying full of 
blood and matter." ^ 

A^^. OQco 'AsvTjv oixrjaiv dv&Q(67tcov 5i/a. 

ovd' Evdov oixoTtoiog lotl rig rqocfri ; 
NE. GZ&iTttri ys, q)v}lag ojg tvavXi^ovrl rep. 
0/1. ra, d' akX eQTjfia, xovd^'v aad-' vTZoareyov; 
NE. avto^vXov y rATtojfia qjavlovgyov rivog 

TS)[V7jfA.aT dvd(j6g, xai tivqeV o^ov rdds, 
0/1. AHvov TO &riaavQi6^a arjfxaivEig xode. 
NE. iov, Lov' Kot tavrd y dXXa ^dXTZazai 

Qdxijy §aQ£iag tov voGrjXeiag nXia. 

So in Homer, Hector dragged on the ground, his 
face foul with dust, his hair matted with blood, 

Squalentem barbam et concretes sanguine crines, 

(as Virgil expresses it^) is a disgusting object, but 
all the more terrible and touching. 

Who can recall the punishment of Marsyas, in 
Ovid, without a feeling of disgust?^ 

1 Philoct. 31-39. 2 ^neid, lib. ii. 277. 

3 Metamorph. vi. 387. "The skin is torn from the upper 
limbs of the shrieking Marsyas, till he is nought but one great 
wound : thick blood oozes on every side ; the bared sinews ar« 



1 64 



LAOCOON. 



Clamanti cutis est summos direpta per artus : 

Nec quidquam, nisi vulnus erat ; cruor undique manatt 

Detectique patent nervi : trepidaeque sine ulla 

Pelle micant venae : salientia viscera possis, 

Et perlucentes numerare in pectore fibras. 

But the loathsome details are here appropriate. 
They make the terrible horrible, which in fiction 
is far from displeasing to us ; since, even in nature, 
where our compassion is enlisted, things horrible are 
not wholly devoid of charm. 

I do not wish to multiply examples, but this one 
thing I must further observe. There is one form 
of the horrible, the road to which lies almost exclu- 
sively through the disgusting, and that is the horror 
of famine. Even in ordinary life we can convey no 
idea of extreme hunger save by enumerating all the 
innutritions, unwholesome, and particularly disgust- 
ing things with which the stomach would fain appease 
its cravings. Since imitation can excite nothing of 
the feeling of actual hunger, it has recourse to 
another disagreeable sensation which, in cases of 
extreme hunger, is felt to be a lesser evil. We may 
thus infer how intense that other suffering must be 
which makes the present discomfort in comparison 
of small account. 

Ovid says of the Oread whom Ceres sent to meet 
Famine,^ — 

visible ; and the palpitating veins quiver, stripped of the cov- 
ering of skin ; you can count the protruding entrails, and the 
muscles shining in the breast. 

1 Metamorph. lib. viii. 809. "Seeing Famine afar off, 
she delivers the message of the goddes*. And after a little 



LAOCOON. 



Hanc (Famem) procul ut vidit. . . . 
. . . refert mandata deae ; paulumque morata 
Quanquam aberat longe, quanquara modo venerat illuc, 
Visa tainen sensisse famem . . . 

This is an unnatural exaggeration. The sight of a 
hungry person, even of Hunger herself, has no such 
power of contagion. Compassion and horror and 
loathing may be aroused, but not hunger. Ovid has 
not been sparing of this element of the horrible in 
the picture of Famine ; while both he and Callima- 
chus,^ in their description of Erisichthon's starva- 
tion, have laid chief emphasis upon the loathsome 
traits. After Erisichthon has devoured every thing, 
not sparing even the sacrificial cow, which his mother 
had been fattening for Vesta, Callimachus makes him 
fall on horses and cats, and beg in the streets for 
crumbs and filthy refuse from other men's tables. 

Kal toLV ^ojv eq}ayev, rav 'Eatla szQsqjs {xdrrjQf 
Kal TOP a&d^locpoQOv nal xbv Ttolefxriiov InTtoVy 
Kal rav aiXovgov, xav stQEfxe d-riQia [iixxd — 
Kal rod"' 6 TOO ^aadrjog 'ivi xQioboici Kad-tjazo 
am^cov dxoXcog re xal ea^oXa Xv^iara dairog. 

Ovid represents him finally as biting into his own 
flesh, that his body might thus furnish nourishment 
for itself. 

Vis tamen ilia mali postquam consumserat omnem 
Materiam . , . 

Ipse suos artus lacero divellere morsu 
Coepit • et infelix minuendo corpus alebat. 

while, although she was yet at a distance and was but approach 
ing, yet the mere sight produced hunger." 
^ llym. in Cererem, 111-116. 



LAOCOON. 



The hideous harpies were made loathsome and ob- 
scene in order that the hunger occasioned by their 
carrying off of the food might be the more horrible. 
Hear the complaints of Phineus in Apollonius :^ — 

tvz&ov 8' r^v aga 5?J Ttot l8rp:vog ajAfii )u7icoai., 
Ttvei rods fivdaXsov re yial ov rXrjtov [levog odfirjg. 
ov xs rig ovds ^Lvvv&a ^qotcov avaiovto neXdaaagy 
ays' SL 01 dddfiavTog kXrjhifievov 'Asag eirj. 
dXkd fA.e TtMQTj drjxd us 8ahog eTtiG^EL dvdyxi] 

I would gladly excuse in this way, if I could, Vir- 
gil's disgusting introduction of the harpies. They, 
however, instead of occasioning an actual present 
hunger, only prophesy an inward craving 3 and this 
prophecy, moreover, is resolved finally into a mere 
play upon words. 

Dante not only prepares us for the starvation of 
Ugolino by a most loathsome, horrible description 
of him together with his former persecutor in hell, 
but the slow starvation itself is not free from dis- 
gusting features, as where the sons offer themselves 
as food for the father. I give in a note a passage 
from a play by Beaumont and Fletcher, which might 
have served me in the stead of all other examples, 
were it not somewhat too highly drawn. ^ 

i Argonaut, lib. ii. 228-233. " Scarcely have they left us any 
food that smells not mouldy, and the stench is unendurable. 
No one for a time could bear the foul food, though his stom- 
ach were beaten of adamant. Bn\ bitter necessity compels 
me to bethink me of the meal, and, so remembering, j: ut it 
into my wretched belly " 

- See Appendix, note 52. 



LAOCOON. 



167 



I come now to objects of disgust in painting. 
Even could we prove that there are no objects 
directly disgusting to the eye, which painting as a 
fine art would naturally avoid, it would still be 
obliged to refrain from loathsome objects in general, 
because they become through the association of ideas 
disgusting also to the sense of sight. Pordenone, in 
a picture of the entombment, makes one of the by- 
standers hold his nose. Richardson ^ objects to this 
on the ground that Christ had not been long enough 
dead for corruption to set in. In the raising of 
Lazarus, however, he would allow the painter to 
represent some of the lookers-on in that attitude, 
because the narrative expressly states that the body 
was already offensive. But I consider the repre- 
sentation in both cases as insufferable, for not only 
the actual smell, but the very idea of it is nauseous. 
We shun bad-smelling places even when we have a 
cold in the head. But painting does not employ 
loathsomeness for its own sake, but, like poetry, to 
give emphasis to the ludicrous and the terrible. At 
its peril ! What I have already said of ugliness in 
this connection applies with greater force to loath- 
someness. This also loses much less of its effect 
in a visible representation than in a description 
addressed to the ear, and can therefore unite less 
closely with the elements of the ludicrous and ter- 
rible in painting than in poetry. As soon as the 
surprise passes and the first curious glance is sat- 
isfied, the elements separate and loathsomeness 
appears in all its crudity. 

^ Richardson de la Peinture, vol. i. p. 74. 



LAOCOON. 



XXVI. 

Winkelmann's "History of Ancient Art" has ap- 
peared, and I cannot venture a step further until I 
have read it. Criticism based solely upon general 
principles may lead to conceits which sooner or 
later we find to our shame refuted in works on 
art. 

The ancients well understood the connection be- 
tween painting and poetry, and are sure not to have 
drawn the two arts more closely together than the 
good of both would warrant. What their artists 
have done will teach me what artists in general 
should do ; and where such a man precedes with the 
torch of history, speculation may boldly follow. 

We are apt to turn over the leaves of an impor- 
tant work before seriously setting ourselves to read 
it. My chief curiosity was to know the author's 
opinion of the Laocoon ; not of its merit as a work 
of art, for that he had already given, but merely of 
its antiquity. Would he agree with those who think 
that Virgil had the group before him, or with those 
who suppose the sculptors to have followed the 
poet? 

I am pleased to find that he says nothing of 



LAOCOON. 



imitation on either side. What need is there, indeed, 
of supposing imitation ? 

Very possibly the resemblances which I have been 
considering between the poetic picture and the mar- 
ble group were not intentional but accidental, and, 
so far from one having served as a model for the 
other, the two may not even have had a common 
model. Had he, however, been misled by an appear- 
ance of imitation, he must have declared in favor of 
those who make Virgil the imitator. For he sup- 
poses the Laocoon to date from the period when 
Greek art was in its perfection : to be, therefore, of 
the time of Alexander the Great. 

" Kind fortune," he says,^ " watching over the 
arts even in their extinction, has preserved for the 
admiration of the world a work of this period of 
art, which proves the truth of what history tells 
concerning the glory of the many lost masterpieces. 
The Laocoon with his two sons, the work of Agesan- 
der, Apollodorus,^ and Athenodorus, of Rhodes, 
dates in all probability from this period, although 
we cannot determine the exact time, nor give, as 
some have done, the Olympiad in which these artists 
flourished." 

In a note he adds : " Pliny says not a word with 

1 Geschichte der Kunst, p. 347. 

2 Not Apollodorus, but Polydorus. Pliny is the only one 
who mentions these artists, and I am not aware that the manu- 
scripts differ in the writing of the name. Had such been the 
case, Hardouin would certainly have noticed it. All the older 
editions also read Polydorus. Winkelmann must therefore 
ftave merely made a slight error in transcribing 



I/O 



LAOCOON. 



regard to the time when Agesander and his assist- 
ants lived. But Maffei, in his explanation of the 
ancient statues, professes to know that these artists 
flourished in the eighty-eighth Olympiad ; and others, 
like Richardson, have maintained the same on his 
authority. He must, I think, have mistaken an 
Athenodorus, a pupil of Polycletus, for one of our 
artists. Polycletus flourished in the eighty-seventh 
Olympiad, and his supposed pupil was therefore 
referred to the Olympiad following. Maffei can 
have no other grounds for his opinion." 

Certainly he can have no other. But why does 
Winkelmann content himself with the mere mention 
of this supposed argument of Maffei? Does it 
refute itself? Not altogether. For although not 
otherwise supported, it yet carries with it a certain 
degree of probability unless we can prove that Athen- 
odorus, the pupil of Polycletus, and Athenodorus, 
the assistant of Agesander and Polydorus, could 
not possibly have been one and the same per- 
son. Happily this is proved by the fact that the 
two were natives of different countries. We have 
the express testimony of Pausanias^ that the first 
Athenodorus was from Clitor in Arcadia, while the 
second, on the authority of Pliny, was born at 
Rhodes. 

Winkelmann can have had no object in refraining 
from a direct refutation of Maffei by the statement 
of this circumstance. Probably the arguments which 

^ 'A^TjvodCjpo^ 6e kcu. Aautac . . . ovtol 6e 'AfKadeg elaiv ht 
KTiSiTopo^. Phoc cap. ix. p S19 (edit. Kuhn). 



LAOCOON. 



171 



his undoubted critical knowledge derived from the 
•skill of the workmanship seemed to him of such 
great weight, that he deemed any slight probability 
which Maffei's opinion might have on its side a 
matter of no importance. He doubtless recog- 
nized in the Laocoon too many of those argutice'^ 
(traits of animation) peculiar to Lysippus, to sup- 
pose it to be of earlier date than that master who 
was the first to enrich art with this semblance of 
^ife. 

But, granting the fact to be proved that the Laoc- 
oon cannot be older than Lysippus, have we thereby 
proved that it must be contemporaneous with him or 
nearly so? May it not be a work of much later 
date? Passing in review those periods previous 
CO the rise of the Roman monarchy, when art in 
Greece alternately rose and sank, why, I ask, might 
not Laocoon have been the happy fruit of that 
emulation which the extravagant luxury of the 
first emperors must have kindled among artists? 
Why might not Agesander and his assistants have 
oeen the contemporaries of Strongylion, Arcesilaus, 
jPasiteles, Posidonius, or Diogenes ? Were not some 
of the works of those masters counted among the 
greatest treasures ever produced by art? And 
tf undoubted works from the hand of these men 
were still in existence, but the time in which they 
\ived was unknown and left; to be determined by the 
btyle of their art, would not some inspiration from 
iieaven be needed to prevent the critic from refer- 

^ Plinius, lib. xxxiv. sect. 19. 



1/2 



LAOCOON. 



ring them to that period which to Winkelmann 
seemed the only one worthy of producing the 
Laocoon ? 

Pliny, it is true, does not expressly mention the 
time when the sculptors of the Laocoon lived. But 
were I to conclude from a study of the whole pas- 
sage whether he would have them reckoned among 
the old or the new artists, I confess the probability 
seems to me in favor of the latter inference. Let 
the reader judge. 

After speaking at some length of the oldest and 
greatest masters of sculpture, — Phidias, Praxiteles, 
and Scopas, — and then giving, without chronological 
order, the names of the rest, especially of those who 
were represented in Rome by any of their works 
Pliny proceeds as follows : ^ — 

1 Lib. xxxvi. sect. 4. " Nor are there many of great repute 
the number of artists engaged on celebrated works prevent- 
ing the distinction of individuals ; since no one could have 
all the credit, nor could the names of many be rehearsed at 
once : as in the Laocoon, which is in the palace of the emperor 
Titus, a work surpassing all the results of painting or statuary. 
From one stone he and his sons and the wondrous coils of the 
serpents were sculptured by consummate artists, working in con- 
cert : Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus, all of Rhodes. 
In like manner Craterus with Pythodorus, Polydectes with 
Hermolaus, another Pythodorus with Artemon, and Aphro- 
disius of Tralles by himself, filled the palaces of the Caesars 
on the Palatine with admirable statuary. Diogenes, the Athe- 
nian, decorated the Pantheon of Agrippa, and the Caryatides on 
the columns of that temple rank among the choicest works, as 
do also the statues on the pediment, though these, from the 
height of their position, are less celebrated." 



LAOCOON. 



Nec multo plurium fama est, quorundam claritati in c peribus 
eximiis obstante numero artificum, quoniam nec unus occupat 
gloriam, nec plures pariter nuncupari possunt, sicut in Laoco- 
onte, qui est in Titi Imperatoris domo, opus omnibus et 
picturae et statuarias artis praeponendum. Ex uno lapide eum 
et liberos draconumque mirabiles nexus de consilii sententia 
fecere summi artifices, Agesander et Polydorus et Athenodo- 
rus Rhodii. Similiter Palatinas domus Caesarum replevere 
probatissimis signis Craterus cum Pythodoro, Polydectes cum 
Hermolao, Pythodorus alius cum Artemone, et singularis Aph- 
rodisius Trallianus. Agrippas Pantheum decoravit Diogenes 
Atheniensis ; et Caryatides in columnis templi ejus probantur 
inter pauca operum : sicut in fastigio posita signa, sed propter 
altitudinem loci minus celebrata. 

Of all the artists mentioned in this passage, Diog- 
enes of Athens is the one whose date is fixed with 
the greatest precision. He adorned the Pantheon 
of Agrippa, and therefore lived under Augustus. 
But a close examination of Pliny's words will, I 
think, determine with equal certainty the date of 
Craterus and Pythodorus, Polydectes and Hermo- 
laus, the second Pythodorus and Artemon, as also 
of Aphrodisius of Tralles. He says of them : " Pal- 
atinas domus Caesarum replevere probatissimis sig- 
nis." Can this mean only that the palaces were 
filled with admirable works by these artists, which 
the emperors had collected from various places and 
brought to their dwellings in Rome? Surely not. 
The sculptors must have executed their works ex- 
pressly for the imperial palaces, and must, therefore, 
have lived at the time of these emperors. That 
they were artists of comparatively late date, who 
worked only in Italy, is plain from our finding no 



174 



LAOCOON. 



mention of them elsewhere. Had they worked m 
Greece at an earlier day, Pausanias would have 
seen some work of theirs and recorded it. He men- 
tions, indeed, a Pythodorus/ but Hardouin is wrong 
in supposing him to be the same referred to by 
Pliny. For Pausanias calls the statue of Juno at 
Coronaea, in Boeotia, the work of the former, ayaXfia 
aQiaiov (an ancient idol), a term which he applies 
only to the works of those artists who lived in the 
first rude days of art, long before Phidias and Prax- 
iteles. With such works the emperors would cer- 
tainly not have adorned their palaces. Of still less 
value is another suggestion of Hardouin, that Arte- 
mon may be the painter of the same name elsewhere 
mentioned by Pliny. Identity of name is a slight 
argument, and by no means authorizes us to do 
violence to the natural interpretation of an uncor- 
rupted passage. 

If it be proved beyond a doubt that Craterus and 
Pythodorus, Polydectes and Hermolaus, with the 
rest, lived at the time of the emperors whose palaces 
they adorned with their admirable works, then I 
think we can assign no other date to those artists, 
the sculptors of the Laocoon, whose names Pliny 
connects with these by the word similiter. For if 
Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus were really 
such old masters as Winkelmann supposes, it would 
be the height of impropriety for an author, who 
makes great account of precision of expression, to 



1 Boeotic. cap. xxxiv. p. 778 (edit. Kuhn). 



LAOCOON. 



leap from them to the most modern artists, merely 
with the words "in like manner." 

But it may be urged that this similiter has no 
reference to a common date, but to some other 
circumstance common to all these masters, who yet 
in age were widely different. Pliny, it may be said, 
is speaking of artists who had worked in partnership, 
and on this account had not obtained the fame they 
merited. The names of all had been left in neglect, 
because no one artist could appropriate the honor of 
the common work, and to mention the names of all 
the participators would require too much time (quo- 
niam nec unus occupat gloriam, nec plures pariter 
nuncupari possunt). This had been the fate of the 
sculptors of the Laocoon, as well as of the many 
other masters whom the emperors had employed in 
the decoration of their palaces. 

But, granting all this, the probabilities are still in 
favor of the supposition that Pliny meant to refer 
only to the later artists whose labors had been in 
common. If he had meant to include older ones, 
why confine himself to the sculptors of the Laocoon ? 

Why not mention others, as Onatas and Calliteles, 
Timocles and Timarchides, or the sons of this Timar- 
chides, who together had made a statue of Jupiter at 
Rome ? ^ Winkelmann himself says that a long list 
might be made of older works which had more than 
one father.^ And would Pliny have thought but of 
the single example of Agesander, Polydoi-us, and 

1 Plinius, lib. xxxvi. sect. 4, p. 730. 

2 Greschichte der Kunst, part ii. p. 331. 



176 



LAOCOON. 



Athenodorus, if he had not meant to confine himself 
strictly to the more modern masters ? 

If ever a conjecture gained in probability from the 
number and magnitude of the difficulties solved by it, 
this one, that the sculptors of the Laocoon flourished 
under the first emperors, has that advantage in a high 
degree. For had they lived and worked in Greece at 
the time which Winkelmann assigns to them, had the 
Laocoon itself existed earlier in Greece, then the 
utter silence of the Greeks with regard to such a 
work, " surpassing all the results of painting or statu- 
uary " (opere omnibus et picturae et statuariae artis 
praeponendo), is most surprising. It is hard to believe 
that such great masters should have created nothing 
else, or that the rest of their works should have been, 
equally with the Laocoon, unknown to Pausanias. 
In Rome, on the contrary, the greatest masterpiece 
might have remained long concealed. If the Lao- 
coon had been finished as early as the time of Augus- 
tus, there would be nothing surprising in Pliny's being 
the first, and, indeed, the last, to mention it. For 
remember what he tells ^ of a Venus by Scopas, 
which stood in the temple of Mars at Rome : 

. . . "quemcunque alium locum nobilitatura. Romaequidem 
magnitudo operum earn obliterat, ac magni officiorum negotio- 
rumque acervi omnes a contemplatione talium abducu it : quo- 
niam otiosorum et in magno loci silentio apta admiratio talis est. " 

1 Plinius, xxxvi. sect. 4. . . . *' which would make the glory 
of any other place. But at Rome the greatness of other works 
overshadows it, and the great press of business and engage- 
ments turns the crowd from the contemplation of such things ; 
for the admiration of works of art belongs to those who have 
leisure and great quiet." 



LAOCOON. 



177 



Those who would fain see in the group an imita- 
tion of Virgil's Laocoon will readily catch at what I 
have been saying, nor will they be displeased at 
another conjecture which just occurs to me. Why 
should not Asinius Pollio, they may think, have been 
the patron who had Virgil's Laocoon put into marble 
by Greek artists ? Pollio was a particular friend of 
the poet, survived him, and appears to have written 
an original work on the ^neid. For whence but 
from such a work could the various comments have 
been drawn which Servius quotes from that author ? ^ 
Pollio was, moreover, a lover of art and a connois- 
seur, possessed a valuable collection of the best 
of the old masterpieces, ordered new works from 
the artists of his day, and showed in his choice a 
taste quite likely to be pleased by so daring a piece 
as the Laocoon,^ " ut fuit acris vehementiae, sic quo- 
que spectari monumenta sua voluit." 

Since, however, the cabinet of Pollio in Pliny's day, 
when the Laocoon was standing in the palace of 
Titus, seems to have existed entire in a separate 
building, this supposition again loses something of 
its probability. Why might not Titus himself have 
done what we are trying to ascribe to Pollio ? 

1 See Appendix, note 53. 2 plinius, xxxvL sect. 4. 



13 



LAOLOON. 



XXVII. 

A LITTLE item first brought to my notice by Win- 
kelmann himself confirms me in my opinion that the 
sculptors of the Laocoon lived at the time of the 
emperors, or at least could not date from so early a 
period as he assigns them. It is this : ^ "In Nettuno, 
the ancient Antium, Cardinal Alexander Albani dis- 
covered in 17 17 in a deep vault, which lay buried 
under the sea, a vase of the grayish black marble 
now called i^igw, wherein the Laocoon was inlaid. 
Upon this vase is the following inscription: — 

AQANOJ^POZ ArnZANAPOT 
POAIOZ EIIOIHZE. 

" Athanadorus of Rhodes, son of Agesander, made 
it." We learn from this inscription that father and 
son worked on the Laocoon ; and probably Apollodo- 
rus (Polydorus) was also a son of Agesander, for this 
Athanodorus can be no other than the one mentioned 
by Pliny. The inscription also proves that more 
than three works of art have been found — the num- 
ber stated by Pliny — on which the artists have set 
the word "made," in definite past time, knoiriGB, fecit 
1 Geschichte der Kunst, part ii. p. 347. 



LAOCOON. 



179 



Other artists, he says, from modesty, made use of 
indefinite time, " was making," tTtoiei, faciebat. 

Few will contradict Winkelmann in his conclusion 
that the Athanodorus of this inscription can be no 
other than the Athenodorus whom Pliny mentions as 
among the sculptors of the Laocoon. Athanodorus 
and Athenodorus are entirely synonymous ; for the 
Rhodians used the Doric dialect. But the other con- 
clusions which he draws from the inscription require 
further comment. 

The first, that Athenodorus was a son of Agesan- 
der, may pass. It is highly probable, though by no 
means certain. Some of the old artists, we know, 
called themselves after their teachers instead of tak- 
ing their fathers' names. What Pliny says of the 
brothers Apollonius and Tauriscus cannot well be 
explained in any other way.^ 

But shall we say that this inscription contradicts 
the statement of Pliny that there were only three 
works of art to which their masters had set their 
names in definite past time (Inoirjoe, instead of sttolei) } 
This inscription ! What need of this to teach us 
what we might have learned long ago from a multi- 
tude of others ? On the statue of Germanicus was 
there not the inscription KXeo^svrjg — tTToirjcje, Cleom- 
enes made ? on the so-called Apotheosis of Homer, 
Agxilaog 87toi7]as, Archelaus made ? on the well-known 
vase at Gaeta, 2JaXmcov mow/cTfi, Salpion made? nor 
are other instances wanting.^ 



1 Lib. xxxvi. sect. 4. 



2 See Appendix, note 54. 



i8o 



LAOCOON. 



Winkelmann may answer : " No one knows that 
better than I. So much the worse for PUny. His 
statement has been so much the oftener contradicted, 
and is so much the more surely refuted." 

By no means. How if Winkelmann has made 
Pliny say more than he meant to say ? How if these 
examples contradict, not Pliny's statement, but only 
something M^hich Winkelmann supposes him to have 
stated? And this is actually the case. I must 
quote the whole passage. Pliny, in the dedication 
of his work to Titus, speaks with the modesty of a 
man who knows better than any one else how far 
what he has accomplished falls short of perfection. 
He finds a noteworthy example of such modesty 
among the Greeks, on the ambitious and boastful 
titles of whose books (inscriptiones, propter quas 
vadimonium deseri possit) he dwells at some length, 
and then says : ^ 

1 Prefatio Edit. Sillig. "Lest I should seem to find too 
much fault with the Greeks, I would be classed with those 
founders of the art of painting and sculpture, recorded in 
these little volumes, whose works, although complete and 
such as cannot be sufficiently admired, yet bear a suspended 
title, as Apelles or Polycletus *was making'; as if the work 
were always only begun and still incomplete, so that the 
artist might appeal from criticism as if himself desirous of 
improving, had he not been interrupted. Wherefore from 
modesty they inscribed every work as if it had been their last, 
and in hand at their death. I think there are but three with 
the inscription, ' He made it,' and these I shall speak of in 
their place. From this it appeared that the artists felt fully 
satisfied with their work, and these excited the envy of all." 



LAOCOON. 



i8i 



Et ne in totum videar Graecos insectari, ex illis nos velim 
intelligi pingendi fingendique conditoribus, quos in libellis his 
invenies, absoluta opera, et ilia quoque quae mirando non 
satiamur, pendenti titulo inscripsisse : ut APELLES FACIE- 
BAT, aut POLYCLETUS : tanquam inchoata semper arte 
et imperfecta: ut contra judiciorum varietates superesset 
artifici regressus ad veniam, velut emendaturo quidquid desi- 
deraretur, si non esset interceptus. Quare plenum verecundiae 
illud est, quod omnia opera tanquam novissima inscripsere, et 
tanquam singulis fato adempti. Tria non amplius, ut opinor, 
absolute traduntur inscripta, ILLE FECIT, quae suis locis 
reddam : quo apparuit, summam artis securitatem auctori 
placuisse, et ob id magna invidia fuere omnia ea. 

I desire to call particular attention to the words 
of Pliny, "pingendi fingendique conditoribus" (the 
creators of the imitative arts). Pliny does not say 
that it was the habit of all artists of every date to 
affix their names to their works in indefinite past 
time. He says explicitly that only the first of the 
old masters — those creators of the imitative arts, 
Apelles, Polycletus, and their contemporaries — pos- 
sessed this wise modesty, and, by his mention of 
these alone, he gives plainly to be understood, though 
he does not actually say it in words, that their succes- 
sors, particularly those of a late date, expressed 
themselves with greater assurance. 

With this interpretation, which is the only true 
one, we may fully accept the inscription from the 
hand of one of the three sculptors of the Laocoon 
without impugning the truth of what Pliny says, 
that but three works existed whereon their creators 
had cut the inscription in the finished past time ,* 
only three, that is, among all the older works, of the 



l82 



LAOCOON. 



time of Apelles, Polycletus, Nicias, and Lysippus. 
But then we cannot accept the conclusion that Athen- 
odorus and his assistants were contemporaries of 
Apelles and Lysippus, as Winkelmann would make 
them. We should reason thus. If it be true that 
among the works of the old masters, Apelles, Poly- 
cletus, and others of that class, there were but three 
whose inscriptions stood in definite past time, and if 
it be further true that Pliny has mentioned these 
three by name,^ then Athenodorus, who had made 
neither of these three works, and who nevertheless 
employs the definite past time in his inscriptions, 
cannot belong among those old masters ; he cannot 
be a contemporary of Apelles and Lysippus, but 
must have a later date assigned him. 

In short, we may, I think, take it as a safe criterion 
that all artists who employed the e7toti]6e, the definite 
past tense, flourished long after the time of Alexander 
the Great, either under the empire or shortly before. 
Of Cleomenes this is unquestionably true; highly 
probable of Archelaus ; and of Salpion the con- 
trary, at least, cannot be proved. So also of the 
rest, not excepting Athenodorus. 

Let Winkelmann himself decide. But I protest 
beforehand against the converse of the proposition. 
If all who employed the sTtolrjaa belong among the 
later artists, not all who have used the STtom are to 
be reckoned among the earliest. Some of the more 
recent artists also may have really possessed this 
becoming modesty, and by others it may have been 
assumed. 

1 See Appendix, note 55. 



LAOCOON. 



183 



XXVIII. 

Next to his judgment of the Laocoon, I was curious 
to know what Winkelmann would say of the so-called 
Borghese Gladiator. I think I have made a discov- 
ery with regard to this statue, and I rejoice in it with 
all a discoverer's delight. 

I feared lest Winkelmann should have anticipated 
me, but there is nothing of the kind in his work. If 
ought could make me doubt the correctness of my 
conjecture, it would be the fact that my alarm was 
uncalled for. 

" Some critics," says Winkelmann,^ " take this statue 
for that of a discobolus, that is, of a person throwing 
a disc or plate of metal. This opinion was expressed 
by the famous Herr von Stosch in a paper addressed 
to me. But he cannot have sufficiently studied the 
position which such a figure would assume. A per- 
son in the act of throwing must incline his body 
backward, with the weight upon the right thigh, 
while the left leg is idle. Here the contrary is the 
case. The whole figure is thrown forward, and rests 
on the left thigh while the right leg is stretched back- 
ward to its full extent. The right arm is new, and a 
piece of a lance has been placed in the hand. On 

1 Geschichte der Kunst, part i. p. 394. 



i34 



LAOCOON. 



the left can be seen the strap that held the shield 
The fact that the head and eyes are turned upward 
and that the figure seems to be protecting himself 
with the shield against some danger from above would 
rather lead us to consider this statue as representing 
a soldier who had especially distinguished himself in 
some position of peril. The Greeks probably never 
paid their gladiators the honor of erecting them a 
statue j and this work, moreover, seems to have been 
made previous to the introduction of gladiators into 
Greece." 

The criticism is perfectly just. The statue is no 
more a gladiator than it is a discobolus, but really 
represents a soldier who distinguished himself in this 
position on occasion of some great danger. After 
this happy guess, how could Winkelmann help going 
a step further ? Why did he not think of that warrior 
who in this very attitude averted the destruction of a 
whole army, and to whom his grateful country erected 
a statue in the same posture ? 

The statue, in short, is Chabrias. 

This is proved by the following passage from 
Nepos' life of that commander : — ^ 

1 Cap. i. " He was also reckoned among their greatest 
leaders, and did many things worthy of being remembered. 
Among his most brilliant achievements was his device in the 
battle which took place near Thebes, when he had come to the 
aid of the Boeotians. For when the great leader Agesilaus 
wc s now confident of victory, and his own hired troops had 
fled he would not surrender the remainder of the phalanx, but 
with knee braced against his shield and lance thrust forward, 
he taught his men to receive the attack of the enemy. At 



LAOCOON. 



" Hie quoque in summis habitus est ducibus ; resque multas 
memoria dignas gessit. Sed ex his elucet maxime inventum 
ejus in proelio, quod apud Thebas fecit, quum Boeotiis subsidio 
venisset. Namque in eo victoriae fidente summo duce Age- 
silao, fugatis jam ab eo conductitiis catervis, reliquam phalan- 
gem loco vetuit cedere, obnixoque genu scuto, projectaque 
hasta impetum excipere hostium docuit. Id novum Agesilaus 
contuens, progredi non est ausus suosque jam incurrentes tuba 
revocavit. Hoc usque eo tota Grascia fama celebratum est, 
ut illo statu Chabrias sibi statuam fieri voluerit, quse publice ei 
ab Atheniensibus in foro constituta est. Ex quo factum est, 
ut postea athletse, ceterique artifices his statibus in statuis 
ponendis uterentur in quibus victoriam essent adepti." 

The reader will hesitate a moment, I know, before 
yielding his assent ; but, I hope, only for a moment. 
The attitude of Chabrias appears to be not exactly that 
of the Borghese statue. The thrusting forward of the 
lance, " projecta hasta," is common to both ; but com- 
mentators explain the "obnixo genu scuto" to be 
" obnixo genu in scutum," " obfirmato genu ad scu- 
tum." Chabrias is supposed to have showed his men 
how to brace the knee against the shield and await the 
enemy behind this bulwark, whereas the statue holds 
the shield aloft. But what if the commentators are 
wrong, and instead of " obnixo genu scuto " belong- 

sight of this new spectacle, Agesilaus feared to advance, and 
ordered the trumpet to recall his men who were already 
advancing. This became famous through all Greece, and 
Chabrias wished that a statue should be erected to him in this 
position, which was set up at the public cost in the forum at 
Athens. Whence it happened that afterwards athletes and 
other artists [or persons versed in some art] had statues 
erected to them in the same position in which they had 
obtained victory." 



LAOCOON. 



ing together, " obnixo genu " were meant to be read 
by itself and " scuto " alone, or in connection with 
the "projectaque hasta," which follows? The inser- 
tion of a single comma makes the correspondence 
perfect. The statue is a soldier, " qui obnixo genu,* 
scuto projectaque hasta impetum hostis excipit," who, 
with firmly set knee, and shield and lance advanced, 
awaits the approach of the enemy. It shows what 
Chabrias did, and is the statue of Chabrias. That a 
comma belongs here is proved by the " que " affixed 
to the "projecta," which would be superfluous if 
" obnixo genu scuto " belonged together, and has, 
therefore, been actually omitted in some editions. 

The great antiquity which this interpretation as- 
signs to the statue is confirmed by the shape of the 
letters in the inscription. These led Winkelmann 
himself to the conclusion that this was the oldest of 
the statues at present existing in Rome on which the 
master had written his name. I leave it to his critical 
eye to detect, if possible, in the style of the work- 
manship any thing which conflicts with my opinion. 
Should he bestow his approval, I may flatter myself 
on having furnished a better example than is to be 
found in Spence's whole folio of the happy manner 
in which the classic authors can be explained by the 
old masterpieces, and in turn throw light upon them. 



1 See Appendix, note 56, 



LAOCOON. 



187 



XXIX. 

WiNKELMANN has brought to his work, together with 
immense reading and an extensive and subtle knowl- 
edge of art, that noble confidence of the old masters 
which led them to devote all their attention to the 
main object, treating all secondary matters with what 
seems like studied neglect, or abandoning them alto- 
gether to any chance hand. 

A man may take no little credit to himself for 
having committed only such errors as anybody might 
have avoided. They force themselves upon our 
notice at the first hasty reading ; and my only excuse 
for commenting on them is that I would remind a 
certain class of persons, who seem to think no one 
has eyes but themselves, that they are trifles not 
worthy of comment. 

In his writings on the imitation of the Greek works 
of art, Winkelmann had before allowed himself to 
be misled by Junius, who is, indeed, a very decep- 
tive author. His whole work is a cento, and since 
his rule is to quote the ancients in their very words, 
he not infrequently applies to painting passages 
which in their original connection had no bearing 
whatever on the subject. When, for instance, Win- 
kelmann would tell us that the highest effect in art, as 



LAOCOON. 



in poetry, cannot be attained by the mere imitation o1 
nature, and that poet as well as painter should choose 
an impossibility which carries probability with it 
rather than what is simply possible, he adds : " This 
is perfectly consistent with Longinus' requirement 
of possibility and truth from the painter in opposition 
to the incredibility which he requires from the poet." 
Yet the addition was unfortunate, for it shows a 
seeming contradiction between the two great art 
critics which really does not exist. Longinus never 
said what is here attributed to him. Something sim- 
ilar he does say with regard to eloquence and poetry, 
but by no means of poetry and painting. % 5' 
iTEQOv Ti rj QK^tOQixr] (favTaoia ^ovXerai, xal hegoy rj 
Ttaga Ttoiijraig, ovu dv Id&oi ae, o^^ on zfjg kv Ttoirjaei 
zsXog lath hjilrj^ig, rijg 5' Iv Xoyoig tvagyeia, he writes 
to his friend Terentian ; ^ and again, 'Ov ^))v dlld xd 
fisv fiagd wig noiifzaig fiv&inojrsgav trjv vTtEgsmzmaiv, 
Hoi Ttavtri to matov vTZegaigovaav trjg ds gritogixrjg cpav- 
taaiag, xdXXiotov del sfATtgaHtov y,al tvaXrfiig? 

But Junius interpolates here painting instead of 
oratory, and it was in his writings, not in those of 
Longinus, that Winkelmann read : " Praesertim cum 
poeticae phantasiae finis sit sHTtXrj^ig, pictoriae vero, Ivdg- 
yeia, xal td ^ilv Ttagd toig noirftalgy ut loquitur idem 

1 Hepl T-^ovc, Tfif/fia, id' (edit. T. Fabri), p. 36, 39. "But so 
it is that rhetorical figures aim at one thing, poetical figures at 
quite another ; since in poetry emphasis is the main object, in 
rhetoric distinctness." 

2 " So with the poets, legends and exaggeration obtain and 
in all transcend belief; but in rhetorical figures the best is 
always the practicable and the true.'' 



LAOCOON. 



Longinus," &c.'^ The words of Longiniis, to be 
sure, but not his meaning. 

The same must have been the case with the follow- 
ing remark : ^ " All motions and attitudes of Greek 
figures which were too wild and fiery to be in accord- 
ance with the character of wisdom, were accounted 
as faults by the old masters and classed by them 
under the general name of parenthyrsus ^ The old 
masters ? There can be no authority for that except 
Junius. Fare7ithyrsus was a word used in rhetoric, 
and, as a passage in Longinus would seem to show, 
even there peculiar to Theodorus.^ Tovxcp itaoa' 
xeltai iQLXov ri naaiag eldog Iv xoig 7ta&i]rixoig, otzeq 6 
OsodcoQog Ttagsv&VQGov kxdXer eari ds Ttd&og dxaiQov xai 
XEvov, hd-a [A,Tj dsi ndd-ovg' ^ dfxstQOv, svd'a imQWv 8ei. 

I doubt, indeed, whether this word can be trans- 
lated into the language of painting. For in oratory 
and poetry pathos can be carried to extreme without 
becoming parenthyrsus^ which is only the extreme of 
pathos in the wrong place. But in painting the 
extreme of pathos would always be parenthyrsus^ 
whatever its excuse in the circumstances of the per- 
sons concerned. 

So, also, various errors in the " History of Art " 
have arisen solely from Winkelmann's haste in accept- 

1 De Pictura Vet. lib. i. cap. 4, p. 33. 

2 "Von der Nachahmung der griech. Werke, &c., 23. 

3 Tii^fia, 0. " Next to this is a third form of faultiness in 
pathos, which Theodorus calls parenthyrsus ; it is a pathos 
unseasonable and empty, where pathos is not necessary; oj 
immoderate, where it should be moderate." 



igo 



LAOCOON. 



ing Junius instead of consulting the original authors. 
When, for instance, he is citing examples to show 
that excellence in all departments of art and labor 
was so highly prized by the Greeks, that the best 
workman, even on an insignificant thing, might 
immortalize his name, he brings forward this among 
others : ^ " We know the name of a maker of very 
exact balances or scales ; he was called Parthenius." 
Winkelmann must have read the words of Juvenal, 
" lances Parthenio factas," which he here appeals 
to, only in Junius's catalogue. Had he looked up 
the original passage in Juvenal, he would not have 
been misled by the double meaning of the word 
" lanx," but would at once have seen from the con- 
nection that the poet was not speaking of balances 
or scales, but of plates and dishes. Juvenal is 
praising Catullus for throwing overboard his treas- 
ures during a violent storm at sea, in order to save 
the ship and himself. In his description of these 
treasures, he says : — 

Ille nec argentum dubitabat mittere, lances 
Parthenio factas, urnas cratera capacem 
Et dignum sitiente Pholo, vel conjuge FuscL 
Adde et bascaudas et mille escaria, multum 
Caelati, biberet quo callidus emtor Olynthi. 

What can the " lances " be which are here stand- 
ing among drinking-cups and bowls, but plates and 
dishes ? And what does Juvenal mean, except that 
Catullus threw overboard his whole silver table- ser- 
vice, including plates made by Parthenius. " Par- 
1 Geschichte der Kunst, part i. p. 136, 



LAOCOON. 



thenius," says the old scholiast, " coelatoris nomen " 
(the name of the engraver). But when Grangaus, in 
his annotations, appends to this name, " sculptor, de 
quo Plinius " (sculptor spoken of by Pliny), he must 
have been writing at random, for Pliny speaks of no 
artist of that name. 

" Yes," continues Winkelmann, " even the name 
of the saddler, as we should call him, has been pre- 
served, who made the leather shield of Ajax." This 
he cannot have derived from the source to which he 
refers his readers, — the life of Homer, by Herod- 
otus. Here, indeed, the lines from the Iliad are 
quoted wherein the poet applies to this worker in 
leather the name Tychius. But it is at the same 
time expressly stated that this was the name of a 
worker in leather of Homer's acquaintance, whose 
name he thus introduced in token of his friendship 
and gratitude.-^ 

ATZsdcoite ds xagiv yiou Tv^icp Tcg aitvrsi. 6g eds^ato avrov 
kv top Necp rsLX^i, TiQoaal&ovra Ttgbg to aavieiov, kv tolg 
sTtsai xara^ev^ag kv ty 'IXiddi toig da : 

Aiag ^ lyyv&Ev r/Xd^e, qisgmv adxog '^vrs nvgyov, 
^ciXxeov, sTzra^oeiov' o ol Tv^iog xafis revxcov 
6iivr(n6^(ov o/' dgiazog, ''TXy 'in oixia vdicov' * 

Here we have exactly the opposite of what Wink- 
elmann asserts. So utterly forgotten, even in Homer's 
time, was the name of the saddler who made the 

* Herodotus de Vita Homeri, p. 756 (edit. Wessel). 

* Iliad, vii. 



192 



LAOCOON. 



shield of Ajax, that the poet was at liberty to substi- 
tute that of a perfect stranger. 

Various other little errors I have found which are 
mere slips of memory, or concern things introduced 
merely as incidental illustrations. 

For instance, it was Hercules, not Bacchus, who, 
as Parrhasius boasts, appeared to him in the same 
shape he had given him on the canvas.-^ 

Tauriscus was not from Rhodes, but from Tralles, 
in Lydia.^ 

The Antigone was not the first tragedy of Soph- 
ocles.^ 

But I refrain from multiplying such trifles. 

Censoriousness it could not be taken for ; but to 
those who know my great respect for Winkelmann it 
might seem trifling. 

1 Geschichte der Kunst, part L p. 176. Plinius, lib. xxxv. 
sect. 36. Athenaeus, lib. xii. p. 543. 

2 Geschichte der Kunst, part ii. p. 353. Plinius, lib. ziucvi 
sect. 4. ' See Appendix, note 57. 



NOTES TO THE LAOCOON. 



NOTES TO THE LAOCOON. 



Note i, p. 8. 

Antiochus (Anthol. lib. ii. cap. 4). Hardouin, in his com- 
mentary on Pliny (lib. xxxv. sect. 36), attributes this epigram 
to a certain Piso. But among all the Greek epigrammatists 
there is none of this name. 

Note 2, p. 9. 

For this reason Aristotle commanded that his pictures should 
not be shown to young persons, in order that their imagination 
might be kept as free as possible from all disagreeable images. 
(Polit. lib. viii. cap. 5, p. 526, edit. Conring.) Boden, indeed, 
would read Pausanias in this passage instead of Pauson, 
because that artist is known to have painted lewd figures (de 
Umbra poetica comment, i, p. xiii). As if we needed a philo- 
sophic law-giver to teach us the necessity of keeping from 
youth such incentives to wantonness ! A comparison of 
this with the well-known passage in the "Art of Poesy" 
would have led him to withhold his conjecture. There are 
commentators, as Kiihn on ^lian (Var. Hist. lib. iv. cap. 3), 
who suppose the difference mentioned by Aristotle as exist- 
ing between Polygnotus, Dionysius, and Pauson to consist 
in this : that Polygnotus painted gods and heroes ; Diony- 
sius, men ; and Pauson, animals. They all painted human 
figures ; and the fact that Pauson once painted a horse, 
does not prove him to have been a painter of animals as 
Boden supposes him to have been. Their rank was deter- 
mined by the degree of beauty they gave their humai figures ; 



NOTES. 



and the reason that Dionysius could paint nothing but men, 
and was therefore called pre-eminently the anthropographist, 
was that he copied too slavishly, and could not rise into the 
domain of the ideal beneath which it would have been blas- 
phemy to represent gods and heroes. 

Note 3, p. 11. 

The serpent has been erroneously regarded as the peculiar 
symbol of a god of medicine. But Justin Martyr expressly 
says (Apolog. ii. p. 55, edit. Sylburgh), napu navTl t<ov vofu^o- 
fievuv nap^ v/uv ■deuv, d^ig avix^oXov fieya koL fwarrjpiov avaypa^STCu ; 
and a number of monuments might be mentioned where the 
serpent accompanies deities having no connection with health. 

Note 4, p. 12. 

Look through all the works of art mentioned by Pliny, Pau- 
sanias, and the rest, examine all the remaining statues, bas- 
reliefs, and pictures of the ancients, and nowhere will you find 
a fury. I except figures that are rather symbolical than be- 
longing to art, such as those generally represented on coins. 
Yet Spence, since he insisted on having furies, would have 
done better to borrow them from coins than introduce them by an- 
ingenious conceit into a work where they certainly do not exist. 
(Seguini Numis. p. 178. Spanheim. de Prasst. Numism. 
Dissert, xiii. p. 639. Les Cesars de Julien, par Spanheim, 
p. 48. In his Polymetis he says (dial, xvi.) : "Though furies 
are very uncommon in the works of the ancient artists, yet 
there is one subject in which they are generally introduced by 
them. I mean the death of Meleager, in the relievos of 
which they are often represented as encouraging or urging 
Althaea to burn the fatal brand on which the life of her only 
son depended. Even a woman's resentment, you see, could 
not go so far without a little help from the devil. In a copy of 
one of these relievos, published in the ' Admiranda,' there are 
two women standing by the altar with Althasa, who are proba- 
bly meant for furies in the original, (for who but furies would 
assist at such a sacrifice ?) though the copy scarce ref resents 



NOTES. 



197 



them horrid enough for that character. But what is most to 
be observed in that piece is the round disc beneath the centre 
of it, with the evident head of a fury upon it. This might 
be what Althaea addressed her prayers to whenever she wished 
ill to her neighbors, or whenever she was going to do any 
very evil action. Ovid introduces her as invoking the furies 
on this occasion in particular, and makes her give more than 
one reason for her doing so." (Metamorph. viii. 479.) 

In this way we might make every thing out of any thing. 
" Who but furies," asks Spence, "would have assisted at such 
a sacrifice ? " I answer, the maid-servants of Althaea, who 
had to kindle and feed the fire. Ovid says (Metamorph. 
viii.) : — 

Protiilit hunc (stipitem) genetrix, taedasque in fragmina poni 
Imperat, et positis inimicos admovet ignes. 

" The mother brought the brand and commands torches to be 
placed upon the pieces, and applies hostile flame to the pile." 

Both figures have actually in their hands these " taedas," long 
pieces of pine, such as the ancients used for torches, and one, 
as her attitude shows, has just broken such a piece. As little 
do I recognize a fury upon the disc towards the middle of the 
work. It is a face expressive of violent pain, — doubtless the 
head of Meleager himself (Metamorph. viii. 515). 

Inscius atque absens flamma Meleagros in ilia 
Urilur ; et cscis torreri viscera sentit 
Ignibus ; et magnos superat virtute dolores. 

" Meleager, absent and unconscious, is consumed in that fire, 
and feels his bowels parched with the unseen flames ; yet 
with courage he subdues the dreadful pains." 

The artist used this as an introduction to the next incident of 
the same story, — the death of Meleager. What Spence 
makes furies, Montfaucon took to be fates, with the exception 
of the head upon the disc, which he also calls a fury. Bellori 
leaves it undecided whether they are fates or furies. An " or " 
which sufficiently proves that they are neither the one nor the 
other. Montfaucon's further interpretation should have been 



NOTES. 



clearer. The female figure resting on her elbows by the bed, 
he should have called Cassandra, not Atalanta. Atalanta is 
the one sitting in a grieving attitude with her ba k towards 
the bed. The artist has very wisely turned her away from the 
family, as being only the beloved, not the wife, of Meleager, 
and because her distress at a calamity of which she had been 
the innocent cause must have exasperated his family. 

Note 5, p. 14. 

He thus describes the degrees of sadness actually expressed 
by Timanthes : " Calchantem tristem, maestum Ulyssem, cla- 
mantem Ajacem, lamentantem Menelaum." Ajax screaming 
would have been extremely ugly, and since neither Cicero nor 
Quintilian, when speaking of this picture, so describe him, I 
shall venture with the less hesitation to consider this an addi- 
tion with which Valerius has enriched the canvas from his 
own invention. 

Note 6, p. 15. 

We read in Pliny (lib. 34, sect. 19) : " Eundem [Mjto] vicit 
et Pythagoras Leontinus, qui fecit statiodromon Astylon, qui 
Olympiae ostenditur : et Libyn puerum tenentem tabulam, 
eodem loco, et mala ferentem nudum. Syracusis autem clau- 
dicantem : cujus hulceris dolorem sentire etiam spectantes 
videntur." "Pythagoras Leontinus surpassed him (Myro). 
He made the statue of the runner, Astylon, which is exhibited 
at Olympia, and in the same place a Libyan boy holding a tablet, 
and a rude statue bearing apples ; but at Syracuse a limping 
figure, the pain of whose sore the beholders themselves seem 
to feel." Let us examine these last words more closely. Is 
there not evident reference here to some person well known as 
having a painful ulcer " Cujus hulceris," &c. And shall 
that " cujus " be made to refer simply to the " claudicantem," 
and the "claudicantem," perhaps, to the still more remote 
" puerum ? " No one had more reason to be known by such a 
malady than Philoctetes. I read, therefore, for "claudican- 
tem," " Philoctetem," or, at least, both together, "Philocte' 



NOTES. 



199 



tern claudicantem," supposing that, as the words were so 
similar in sound, one had crowded out the other. Sophocles 
represents him as an(3ov Kar' dvdyKijv ipneiv, compelled to drag 
his limping gait, and his not being able to tread as firmly on 
his wounded foot would have occasioned a limp. 

Note 7, p. 24. 

When the chorus perceives Philoctetes under this accumula- 
tion of miseries, his helpless solitude seems the circumstance 
that chiefly touches them. We hear in every word the social 
Greek. With regard to one passage, however, I have my 
doubts. It is this : — 

"ly' avTog }]v irpoaovpog ovk ex(^v (Sdaiv, 
ovfie riv' kyx(^p(0Vy 

KaKoysLTOva nap' ^ otovov dvuTimov 
^apv^pur' dnoKXav — 
oatv aifj.aT7]p6v. 

Lit. : I myself, my only neighbor, having no power to walk, 
nor any companion, a neighbor in ill, to whom I might wail 
forth my echoing, gnawing groans, bloodstained. 

The common translation of Winshem renders the lines 
thus : — 

Ventis expositus et pedibus captus 
Nullum cohabitatorem 

Nec vicinum ullum saltern malum habens, apud quern gemitum motuum. 

Gravemque ac cruentum 

Ederet 

The translation of Thomas Johnson differs from this only 
in the choice of words : — 

Ubi ipse ventis erat expositus, finnum gradum non babens, 

Nec quenquam indigenarum, 

Nec malum vicinmn, apud quem ploraret 

Vehementur edacem 

Sanguineimi morbum, mutuo gemitu. 

One might think he had borrowed these words from the trans- 
lation of Thomas Naogeorgus, who expresses himself thus 



200 



NOTES. 



(his work is very rare, and Fabricius himself knew it only 
through Operin's Catalogue) : — 

. . . ubi expositus fuit 
Ventis ipse, gradum fir mum haud habens, 
Nec quenquam indigenam, nec vel malum 
Vicinum, ploraret apud quem 
Vehementer edacem atque cruentum 
Morbum mutuo. 

If these translations are correct, the chorus pronounces the 
strongest possible eulogy on human society. The wretch 
has no human being near him ; he knows of no friendly 
neighbor ; even a bad one would have been happiness. Thom- 
son, then, might have had this passage in mind when he puts 
these words into the mouth of his Melisander, who was like- 
wise abandoned by rufi&ans on a desert island : — 

Cast on the wildest of the Cyclad isles 
Where never human foot had marked the shore, 
These ruffians left me ; yet believe me, Areas, 
Such is the rooted love we bear mankind, 
All ruffians as they were, I never heard 
A sound so dismal as their parting oars. 

To him, also, the society of ruffians was better than none. A 
great and admirable idea ! If we could but be sure that 
Sophocles, too, had meant to express it ! But I must reluc- 
tantly confess to finding nothing of the sort in him, unless, 
indeed, I were to use, instead of my own eyes, those of the 
old scholiast, who thus transposes the words : — Ov fiovov 
bnov Kalbv ovk elxe riva tuv kyxf^plo^v ye'iTOva, aXka ov6e KaKOv, 
nap' ov afioijSalov TJbyov areva^uv duovaeie. Brumoy, as well as 
our modern German translator, has held to this reading, like 
the translators quoted above. Brumoy says, " Sans societe, 
meme importune;" and the German, "jeder Gesellschaft, 
auch der beschwerlichsten, beraubt." My reasons for differ- 
ing from all of these are the following. First, it is evident 
that if KaKoyeiTova was meant to be separated from nv' iy;j;wpuv 
and constitute a distinct clause, the particle ovdt would neces- 
sarily have been repeated before it. Since this is not the 



NOTES. 



201 



case, it is equally evident that KaKoyeirova belongs to nm, and 
there should be no comma after hyxiopuv. This comma crept 
in from the translation. Accordingly, I find that some Greek 
editions (as that published at Wittenberg of 1585 in 8vo, which 
was wholly unknown to Fabricius) are without it, but put a 
comma only after KaKoyelrova, as is proper. Secondly, is that 
a bad neighbor from whom we may expect, as the scholiast 
has it, oTovov avrtrvirov , afj,oL(3cuov ? To mingle his sighs with 
ours is the office of a friend, not an enemy. In short, the 
^ ord KCKoyELTova has not been rightly understood. It has been 
thought to be derived from the adjective /ca/fof, when it is 
really derived from the substantive to naKov. It has been 
translated an evil neighbor, instead of a neighbor in ill. Just 
as KaKOfxavTLQ means not an evil, in the sense of a false, 
untrue prophet, but a prophet of evil, and KaKorexvoQ means 
not a bad, unskilful painter, but a painter of bad things. In 
this passage the poet means by a neighbor in ill, one who is 
overtaken by a similar misfortune with ourselves, or from 
friendship shares our sufferings ; so that the whole expression, 
ov6' ex(^v rtv^ tyx^opuv KaKoyetrova, is to be translated simply by 
"neque quenquam indigenarum mali socium habens." The 
new English translator of Sophocles, Thomas Franklin, must 
have been of my opinion. Neither does he find an evil neigh- 
bor in KaKoyecTuv, but translates it simply "fellow-mourner." 

Exposed to the inclement skies, 

Deserted and forlorn he lies, 

No friend nor fellow-mourner there, 

To soothe his sorrow and divide his care. 

Note 8, p. 34. 

Saturnal. lib. V. cap. 2. " Non parva sunt alia quae Virgilius 
traxit a Graecis, dicturumne me putatis quae vulgo nota sunt ? 
quod Theocritum sibi fecerit pastoralis operis autorem, ruralia 
Hesiodum ? et quod in ipsis Georgicis, tempestatis serenita- 
tisque signa de Arati Phasnomenis traxerit ? vel quod ever- 
sionem Trojae, cum Sinone suo, et equo ligneo caeterisque 
omnibus, quae librum secundum faciunt, a Pisandro pene ad 



202 



NOTES. 



verbum transcripserit ? qui inter Graecos poetas eminet opere, 
quod a nuptiis Jovis et Junonis incipiens universas historias, 
quae mediis omnibus saeculis usque ad setatem ipsius Pisandri 
contigerunt, in unam seriem coactas redegerit, et unum ex 
diversis hiatibus temporum corpus eff ecerit ? in quo opere inter 
historias caeteras interitus quoque Trojae in hunc modum 
relatus est. Quae fideliter Maro interpretando, fabricatus est 
sibi Iliacae urbis ruinam. Sed et haec et talia ut pueris decan- 
tata praetereo." 

Not a few other things were brought by Virgil from the 
Greeks, and inserted in his poem as original. Do you think I 
would speak of what is known to all the world ? how he took 
his pastoral poem from Theocritus, his rural from Hesiod ? 
and how, in his Georgics, he took from the Phenomena of 
Aratus the signs of winter and summer ? or that he translated 
almost word for word from Pisander the destruction of Troy, 
with his Sinon and wooden horse and the rest ? For he is 
famous among Greek poets for a work in which, beginning his 
universal history with the nuptials of Jupiter and Juno, he 
collected into one series whatever had happened in all ages, to 
the time of himself, Pisander. In which work the destruction 
of Troy, among other things, is related in the same way. By 
faithfully interpreting these things, Maro made his ruin of 
Ilium. But these, and others like them, I pass over as familiar 
♦^o every schoolboy. 

Note 9, p. 35. 

1 DO not forget that a picture mentioned by Eumolpus in Petro- 
nius may be cited in contradiction of this. It represented the 
destruction of Troy, and particularly the history of Laocoon 
exactly as narrated by Virgil. And since, in the same gallery 
at Naples were other old pictures by Zeuxis, Protogenes, and 
Apelles, it was inferred that this was also an old Greek pic- 
ture. But permit me to say that a novelist is no historian. 
This gallery and picture, and Eumolpus himself, apparently 
existed only in the imagination of Petronius. That the whole 
was fiction appears from the evident traces of an almost 



NOTES. 



203 



schoolboyish imitation of Virgil. Thus Virgil (iEneid lib. ii 
' 199-224) : — 

Hie aliud majus miseris multoque tremendum 
Objicitur magis, atque improvida pectora turbat. 
Laocoon, ductus Neptuno sorte sacerdos, 
Solemnis taurum ingentem mactabat ad aras. 
Ecce autem gemini a Tenedo tranquilla per alta 
(Horresco referens) immensis orbibus angues 
Incumbunt pelago, pariterque ad lltora tendunt : 
Pectora quorum inter fluctus arrecta, jubaeque 
Sanguines exsuperant undas : pars cetera pontum 
Pone legit, sinuatque immensa volumine terga. 
Fit sonitus, spumante salo : jamque arva tenebant« 
Ardentesque oculos sufEecti sanguine et igni 
Sibila lambebant Unguis vibrantibus ora. 
Diifugimus visu exsangues. Illi agmine certo 
Laocoonta petunt, et priinum parva duorum 
Corpora natorum serpens amplexus uterque 
Implicat, et miseros morsu depascitur artus. 
Post ipsum, auxilio subeuntem ac tela ferentem, 
Corripiunt, spirisque ligant ingentibus ; et jam 
Bis medium amplexi, bis coUo squamea circum 
Terga dati, superant capita et cervicibus altis. 
Ille simul manibus tendit divellere nodos, 
Perfusus sanie vittas atroque veneno : 
Clamores simul horrendos ad sidera toUit. 
Quales mugitus, fugit cum saucius aram 
Taurus et incertam excussit cervice securim. 

And thus Eumolpus, in whose lines, as is usually the case 
with improvisators, memory has had as large a -^hare as imag- 
ination : — 

Ecce alia monstra. Celsa qua Tenedos mai* 
Dorso repellit, tumida consurgunt freta, 
Undaque resultat scissa tranquillo minor. 
Qualis silenti nocte remorum sonus 
Longe refertur, cum premunt classes mare, 
Pulsumque marmor abiete imposita gemit. 
Respicimus, angues orbibus geminis f eruut 
Ad saxa fluctus : tumida quorum pectora 
Rates ut altae, lateribus spumas agimt : 
Dat Cauda sonitum ; liberse ponto jubas 
Coruscant luminibus, fulmineum jubar 



204 



NOTES. 



Incendit sequor, sibilisque undae tremunt : 
Stupuere mentes. Infulis stabant sacri 
Phrygioque cultu gemina nati pignora 
Laocoonte, quos repente tergoribus ligant 
Angues corusci : parvulas illi manus 
Ad ora referunt : neuter auxilio sibi 
Uterque fratri transtulit pias vices, 
Morsque ipsa miseros mutuo perdit metu. 
Accumulat ecce liberum funus parens 
Infirmus auxiliator ; invadunt virum 
Jam morte pasti, membra que ad terram trahunt. 
Jacet sacerdos inter aras victima. 

The main points are the same in both, and in many places 
the same words are used. But those are trifles, and too 
evident to require mention. There are other signs of imita- 
tion, more subtle, but not less sure. If the imitator be a man 
with confidence in his own powers, he seldom imitates without 
trying to improve upon the original ; and, if he fancy himself 
to have succeeded, he is enough of a fox to brush over with 
his tail the footprints which might betray his course. But he 
betrays himself by this very vanity of wishing to introduce 
embellishments, and his desire to appear original. For his 
embellishments are nothing but exaggerations and excessive 
refinements. Virgil says, " Sanguineae jubae " ; Petronius, 
"liberse jubae luminibus coruscant " ; Virgil, "ardentes oculos 
suffecti sanguine et igni " ; Petronius, " fulmineum jubar incen- 
dit aequor." Virgil, " fit sonitus spumante salo " ; Petronius, 
"sibilis undae tremunt." So the imitator goes on exaggerating 
greatness into monstrosity, wonders into impossibilities. The 
boys are secondary in Virgil. He passes them over with a few 
insignificant words, indicative simply of their helplessness 
and distress. Petronius makes a great point of them, con- 
verting the two children into a couple of heroes. 

Neuter auxilio sibi 
Uterque fratri transtulit pias vices 
Morsque ipsa miseros mutuo perdit metu. 

Who expects from human beings, and children especially, such 
self-sacrifice ? The Greek understood nature better (Quintus 



NOTES. 



205 



C calaber, lib. xii.), when he made even mothers forget their 
children at the appearance of the terrible serpents, so intent 
was every one on securing his own safety. 

. . . ev&a yvvaiKec 
Ol/io)^ov, Kal Tvov TIC ^^'^ ETTeTajaaTo tskvuv 
AvTTj aXevoiievrj arvyepbv fiopov . . . 

The usual method of trying to conceal an imitation is to 
alter the shading, bringing forward what was in shadow, and 
obscuring what was in relief. Virgil lays great stress upon 
the size of the serpents, because the probability of the whole 
subsequent scene depends upon it. The noise occasioned by 
their coming is a secondary idea, intended to make more vivid 
the impression of their size. Petronius raises this secondary 
idea into chief prominence, describing the noise with all possi- 
ble wealth of diction, and so far forgetting to describe the size 
of the monsters that we are almost left to infer it from the noise 
they make. He hardly would have fallen into this error, had 
he been drawing solely from his imagination, with no model 
before him which he wished to imitate without the appearance 
of imitation. We can always recognize a poetic picture as an 
unsuccessful imitation when we find minor details exaggerated 
and important ones neglected, however many incidental beau- 
ties the poem may possess, and however difficult, or even 
impossible, it may be to discover the original. 

Note id, p. 36. 

SuPPL. aux Antiq. Expl. T. i. p. 243. II y a quelque petite 
difference entre ce que dit Virgile, et ce que le marbre repre- 
sente. II semble, selon ce que dit le poete, que les serpens quit- 
terent les deux enfans pour venir entortiller le pere, au lieu 
que dans ce marbre ils lient en meme temps les enfans et leur 
pere. 

Note ii, p. 37. 

DONATUS ad v. 227, lib. ii. ^Eneid. Mirandum non est, clypeo 
ct simulacri vestigiis tegi potuisse, quos supra et longos ct 



206 



NOTES. 



validos dixit, et multiplici ambitu circumdedisse Laocoontis 
corpus ac liberorum, et fuisse superfluam partem. The " non " 
in the clause "mirandum non est," should, it seems to me, be 
omitted, unless we suppose the concluding part of the sentence 
to be missing. For, since the serpents were of such extraor- 
dinary length, it would certainly be surprising that they could 
be concealed beneath the goddess's shield, unless this also 
were of great length, and belonged to a colossal figure. The 
assurance that this was actually the case must have been 
meant to follow, or the "non" has no meaning. 

Note 12, p. 39. 

In the handsome edition of Dryden's Virgil (London, 1697). 
Yet here the serpents are wound but once about the body, and 
hardly at all about the neck. So indifferent an artist scarcely 
deserves an excuse, but the only one that could be made for 
him would be that prints are merely illustrations, and by no 
means to be regarded as independent works of art. 

Note 13, p. 40. 

This is the judgment of De Piles in his remarks upon Du 
Fresnoy : " Remarquez, s'il vous plait, que les draperies ten- 
dres et legeres, n'^tant donnees qu'au sexe feminin, les anciens 
sculpteurs ont evite autant qu'ils ont pu, d'habiller les figures 
d'hommes ; parce qu'ils ont pense, comme nous I'avons dej^ 
dit qu'en sculpture on ne pouvait imiter les etoffes, et que les 
gros plis faisaient un mauvais effet. 11 y a presque autant 
d'exemples de cette verite, qu'il y a parmi les antiques, de 
figures d'hommes nuds. Je rapporterai seulement celui du 
Laocoon, lequel, selon la vraisemblance, devrait etre vetu. 
En effet, quelle apparence y a-t-il qu'un fils de roi, qu'un 
pretre d'Apollon, se trouvat tout nud dans la ceremonie 
actuelle d'un sacrifice car les serpens passerent de I'ile de 
Tenedos au rivage de Troye, et surprirent Laocoon et ses fils 
dans le temps meme qu'il sacrifiait a Neptune sur le bord de 
la mer, comme le marque Virgile dans le second livre de son 
Eneide. Cependant les artistes qui sont les auteurs de ce bel 



NOTES. 



20; 



ouvrage, ont bien vu qu'ils ne pouvaient pas leur donner de 
vetements convenables k leur qualite, sans faire comme un 
amas de pierres, dont la masse ressemblerait a un rocher, au 
lieu des trois admirables figures, qui ont ete, et qui sont tou- 
jours, ] 'admiration des siecles. C'est pour cela que de deux 
inconveniens, ils ont juge celui des draperies beaucoup plus * 
facheux, que celui d'aller contre la verite meme. 

Note 14, p. 42. 

Maffei, Richardson, and, more recently, Herr Von Hage- 
dorn. (Betrachtungen iiber die Malerei, p. 37. Richardson, 
Traite de la Peinture, vol. iii.) De Fontaines does not merit 
being reckoned in the same class with these scholars. In the 
notes to his translation of Virgil, he maintains, indeed, that 
the poet had the group in mind, but he is so ignorant as to 
ascribe it to Phidias. 

Note 15, p. 44. 

I CAN adduce no better argument in support of my view than 
this poem of Sadolet. It is worthy of one of the old poets, 
and, since it may well take the place of an engraving, I ven- 
ture to introduce it here entire. 

DE LAOCOONTIS STATUA JACOBI SADOLETI CARMEN. 

Ecce alto terrae e cumulo, ingentisque ruinae 

Visceribus, iterum reducem longinqua reduxit 

Laocoonta dies ; aulis regalibus olim 

Qui stetit, atque tuos omabat, Tite, Penates. 

Divine simulacrum arti.», nec docta vetustas 

Nobilius spectabat opus, nunc celsa revisit 

Exemptiun tenebris redivivae moenia Romae. 

Quid primum summumque loquar ? miserumne parentem 

Et prolem geminam ? an sinuatos flexibus angues 

Terribili aspectu ? caudasque irasque draconum 

Vulneraque et veros, saxo moriente, dolores? 

Horret ad haec animus, mutaque ab imagine pulsat 

Pectora, non parvo pietas commixta tremori. 

Prolixum bini spiris glomerantur in orbeni 

Ardentes colubri, et sinuosis orbibus errant. 



NOTES. 



Temaque multiplici constringunt corpora nexa. 

Vix oculi sufferre valent, crudele tuendo 

Exitium, casusque feros : micat alter, et ipsum 

Laocoonta petit, totumque infraque supraque 

Implicat et rabido tandem ferit ilia morsu. 

Connexum refugit corpus, torquentia sese 

Membra, latusque retro sinuatum a vulnere cemas. 

Ille dolore acri, et lanlatu impulsus acerbo, 

Dat gemitum ingentem, crudosque evellere dentes 

Connixus, Isevam impatiens ad terga Chelydri 

Objicit : intendunt nervi, collectaque ab omni 

Corpore vis frustra summis conatibus instat. 

Ferre nequit rabiem, et de vulnere murmur anhelum tat. 

At serpens lapsu crebro redeunte subintrat 

Lubricus, intortoque ligat genua infima nodo. 

Absistunt surae, spirisque prementibus arctum 

Crus tumet, obsepto turgent vitalia pulsu, 

Liventesque atro distendunt sanguine venas. 

Nec minus in nates eadem vis effera sasvit 

Implexuque angit rapido, miserandaque membra 

Dilacerat : jamque alterius depasta cruentum 

Pectus, suprema genitorem voce cientis, 

Circumjectu orbis, validoque volumine fulcit. 

Alter adhuc nullo violatus corpora morsu, 

Dum parat adducta caudam divellere planta, 

Horret ad aspectum miseri patris, haeret in illo, 

Et jam jam ingentes fletus, lachrymasque cadentes 

Anceps in dubio retinet timor. Ergo perenni 

Qui tantum statuistis oyus jam laude nitentes, 

Artifices magni (quanquam et melioribus actis 

Quseritur asternum nomen, multoque licebat 

Clarius ingenium venturae tradere famae) 

Attamen ad laudem quaecunque oblata facultas 

Egregium banc rapere, et summa ad fastigia niti. 

Vos rigidum lapidem vivis animare figuris 

Eximii, et vivos spiranti in marmore sensus 

Inserere, aspicimus motumque iramque doloremqua^ 

Et pene audimus gemitus ; vos extulit olim 

Clara Rhodos, vestrse jacuerunt artis honores 

Tempore ab immense, quos rursum in luce secunda 

Roma videt, celebratque frequens : operisque vetusti 

Gratia parta recens. Quanto praestantius ergo est 

Ingenio, aut quovis extendere fata labore, 

Quam fastus et opes et inanem extendere luxum- 



NOTES. 



209 



LAOCOON, BY JAMES SADOLET. 

So, from the depths of earth and the bowels of mighty ruins, the long- 
deferred day has brought back the returning Laocoon, who stood of old in thy 
royal halls and graced thy penates, Titus. The image of divine art, a work 
as noble as any produced by the learning of antiquity, now freed from dark- 
ness, beholds again the lofty walls of renovated Rome. With what part shall 
I begin as the greatest? the unhappy father and his two sons? the sinuous 
coils of the terrible serpents? the tails and the fierceness of the dragons? the 
wounds and real pains of the dying stone? These chill the mind with horror, 
and pity, mingled with no slight fear, drives our hearts back from the dumb 
image. Two gleaming snakes cover a vast space with their gathered coils, 
and move in sinuous rings, and hold three bodies bound in a many-twisted 
knot. Eyes scarce can bear to behold the cruel death and fierce sufferings. 
One gleaming seeks Laocoon himself, winding him all about, above, below, 
and attacks his groins at last with poisonous bite. The imprisoned body 
recoils, and you see the limbs writhe and the side shrink back from the wound. 
Forced by the sharp pain and bitter anguish, he groans ; and, trying to tear 
out the cruel teeth, throws his left hand upon the serpent's back. The 
nerves strain, and the whole body in vain collects its strength for the supreme 
effort. He cannot endure the fierce torture, and pants from the wound. But 
the slippery snake glides down with frequent folds, and binds his leg below the 
knee with twisted knot. The calves fall in, the tight-bound leg swells between 
the pressing coils, and the vitals grow tumid from the stopping of the pulses, 
and black blood distends the livid veins. The same cruel violence attacks the 
children no less fiercely, tortures them with many encircling folds, and lacer- 
ates their suffering limbs. Now satiated upon the bloody breast of one, who, 
with his last breath, calls upon his father, the serpent supports the lifeless 
body with the mighty circles thrown around it. The other, whose body has as 
yet been hurt by no sting, while preparing to pluck out the tail from his foot, 
is filled with horror at sight of his wretched father, and clings to him. A 
double fear restrains his great sobs and falling tears- Therefore ye enjoy per- 
petual fame, ye great artificers who made the mighty work, although an 
immortal name may be sought by better deeds, and nobler ta'ents may be 
handed down to future fame. Yet any power employed to snatch this praise 
and reach the heights of fame is excellent. Ye have excelled in animating the 
rigid stone with living forms, and inserting living senses within the breathing 
marble. We see the movement, the wrath and pain, and almost hear the 
groans. Illustrious Rhodes begot you of old. Long the glories of your art 
lay hid, but Rome beholds them again in a second dawn, and celebrates them 
with many voices, in fresh acknowledgment of the old labor. How much nobler, 
then, to extend our fates by art or toil than to swell pride and wealth and 
empty luxury. 

(Leodegarii a Quercu Farrago Poematum, T. ii.) Gruter has 



14 



210 



NOTES. 



introduced this poem with another one of Sadolet into his 
well-known collection, but with many errors. (Delic. Poet. 
Italorum. Parte alt.) 

Note i6, p. 45. 

De la Peinture, tome iii. p. 516. C'est I'horreur que les 
Troiens ont congue contre Laocoon, qui etait necessaire k Vir- 
gile pour la conduite de son poeme ; et cela le mene k cette 
description pathetique de la destruction de la patrie de son 
heros. Aussi Virgile n'avait garde de diviser I'attention sur la 
derniere nuit, pour une grand ville entiere, par la peinture d'un 
petit malheur d'un particulier. 

Note 17, p. 51. 

I SAY it is possible, but I would wager ten against one that it 
is not so. Juvenal is speaking of the early days of the 
republic, when splendor and luxury were yet unknown, and 
the soldier put whatever gold and silver he got as booty upon 
his arms and the caparisons of his horse. (Sat. xi.) 

Tunc rudis et Grajas mirari nescius artes 
Urbibus eversis prjedarum in parte reperta 
Magnorum artificum frangebat pocula miles. 
Ut phaleris gauderet equus, caslataque cassis 
Romuleae simulacra ferae mansuescere jussas 
Imperii fato, geminos sub rupe Quirinos, 
Ac nudam effigiem clypeo fulgentis et hasta, 
Pendentisque Dei perituro ostenderet hosti. 

The soldier broke up the precious cups, the masterpieces 
of great artists, to make a she-wolf, a little Romulus and 
Remus to deck his helmet with. All is plain down to the 
last two lines, where the poet proceeds to describe such a 
figure on the helmets of the old soldiers. The figure is meant 
for the god Mars, but what can the term pendetitis mean as 
applied .to him ? Rigaltius found in an old gloss the iuterpre- 
tation "quasi ad ictum se inclinantis." Lubinus supposes the 
figure to have been on the shield, and, as the shield hung 
from the arm, the figure might be spoken of as hanging. But 
this is contrary to the construction, the subject of " ostenderet " 



NOTES. 



211 



being not "miles" but "cassis." According to Britannicus, 
whatever stands high in the air may be said to hang, and the 
expression may be used of this figure perched above or upon 
the helmet. Some would read " perdentis " as a contrast to the 
following "perituro," though none but themselves would think 
the contrast desirable. What does Addison say to this doubt- 
ful passage ? He thinks all the commentators are wrong and 
maintains this to be the true meaning. " The Roman soldiers, 
who were not a little proud of their founder and the military 
genius of their republic, used to bear on their helmets the first 
history of Romulus, who was begot by the god of war and 
suckled by a wolf. The figure of the god was made as if 
descending upon the priestess Ilia, or, as others call her, Rhea 
Silvia. As he was represented descending, his figure appeared 
suspended in the air over the vestal virgin, in which sense the 
word ' pendentis ' is extremely proper and poetical. Besides 
the antique basso-rilievo (in Bellori) that made me first think 
of this interpretation, I have since met with the same figures 
on the reverses of a couple of ancient coins, which were 
stamped in the reign of Antoninus Pius." (Addison's Travels, 
Rome, Tonson's edition, 1745, p. 183.) 

Since Spence considers this such a happy discovery on the 
part of Addison, that he quotes it as a model of its kind and 
as the strongest proof of the value of the works of the old 
artists in throwing light on the classic Roman poets, I cannot 
refrain from a closer examination of it. (Polymetis, dial, vii.) 
I must observe, in the first place, that the bas-relief and the 
coin would hardly have recalled to Addison the passage from 
Juvenal, had he not remembered reading in the old scholiast, 
who substituted "venientis " for "fulgentis" in the last line 
but one, this interpretation : " Martis ad Iliam venientis ut 
concumberet." Now, instead of this reading of the old 
scholiast, let us accept Addison's, and see if we have then the 
slightest reason for supposing the poet to have had Rhea in 
mind. Would it not rather be a complete inversion on his 
part, where he is speaking of the wolf and the boys, to be 
^hinkintr of the adventure to which the child ven owe theil 



212 



NOTES. 



life ? Rhea has not yet become a mother, and the boys are 
already lying under the rock. Would an hour of dalliance be 
a fitting emblem for the helmet of a Roman soldier ? The 
soldier was proud of the divine origin of the founder of his 
country, and that was sufficiently typified by the wolf and the 
children. What need of introducing Mars at a moment when 
he was any thing but the dread-inspiring god His visit to 
Rhea may have been represented on any number of old mar- 
bles and coins : did that make it a fitting ornament for armor ? 
What are the marbles and coins on which Addison saw Mars 
in this hovering attitude ? The old bas-relief to which he 
appeals is said to be in Bellori, but we shall look for it in vain 
in the Admiranda, his collection of finest old bas-reliefs. Spence 
cannot have found it there or elsewhere, for he jnakes no men- 
tion of it. Nothing remains, therefore, but the coins, which 
we will study from Addison himself. I see a recumbent 
figure of Rhea, and Mars standing on a somewhat higher 
plane, because there was not room for him on the same level. 
That is all : there is no sign of his being suspended. Such an 
effect is produced very strongly, it is true, in Spence's copy. 
The upper part of the figure is thrown so far forward as to 
make standing impossible ; so that if the body be not falling, 
it must be hovering. Spence says this coin is in his posses- 
sion. It is hard to question a man's veracity, even in a trifle, 
but our eyes are often greatly influenced by a preconceived 
opinion. He may, besides, have thought it allowable for the 
good of the reader to have the artist so emphasize the expres- 
sion which he thought he saw, that as little doubt might 
remain on our mind as on his. One thing is plain : that 
Spence and Addison refer to the same coin, which is either 
very much misrepresented by one or embellished by the other. 
But I have another objection to make to this supposed hover- 
ing attitude of Mars. A body thus suspended, without any 
visible cause for the law of gravitation not acting upon it, is 
an absurdity of which no example can be found in the old 
works of art. It is not allowable even in modern painting. 
If a body is to be suspended in the air, it must either have 



NOTES. 



213 



wings or appear to rest upon something, if only a cloud. 
When Homer makes Thetis rise on foot from the sea-shore to 
Olympus, T^v fjh) up' OvXvfnrovde Tzodeg (pepov (Iliad, xviii. 148), 
Count Caylus is too well aware of the limitations of art to 
counsel the painter to represent her as walking unsupported 
through the air. She must pursue her way upon a cloud 
(Tableaux tires de I'lliade, p. 91), as in another place he puts 
her into a chariot (p. 131), although exactly the opposite is 
stated by the poet. How can it be otherwise ? Although the 
poet represents the goddess with a human body, he yet removes 
from her every trace of coarse and heavy materiality, and 
animates her with a power which raises her beyond the influ- 
ence of our laws of motion. How could painting so distin- 
guish the bodily shape of a deity from the bodily shape of a 
human being, that our eyes should not be offended by observ- 
ing it acted upon by different laws of motion, weight, and 
equilibrium ? How but by conventional signs, such as a pair 
of wings or a cloud ? But more of this elsewhere ; here it is 
enough" to require the defenders of the Addison theory to 
show on the old monuments a second figure floating thus 
unsupported in the air. Can this Mars be the only one of its 
kind ? why ? Were there some particular conditions handed 
down by tradition which would necessitate such exceptional 
treatment in this one case ? There is no trace of such in Ovid 
(Fast. lib. i.), but rather proof that no such conditions ever 
could have existed. For in other ancient works of art which 
represent the same story. Mars is evidently not hovering, but 
walking. Examine the bas-relief in Montfaucon (Suppl. T. i. p. 
183), which is to be found, if I am not mistaken, in the Mel- 
lini palace at Rome. Rhea lies asleep under a tree, and Mars 
approaches her softly, with that expressive backward motion 
of the right hand by which we warn those behind to stay 
where they are, or to advance gently. His attitude is pre- 
cisely the same as on the coin, except that in one case he holds 
his lance in the right, in the other in the left hand. We often 
find famous statues and bas-reliefs copied on coins, and the 
same may well be the case here, only that the cutter of the 



214 



NOTES. 



die did not perceive the force of the backward motion of the 
hand, and thought it better employed in holding the lance. 
Taking all these arguments into consideration, what degree of 
probability remains to Addison's theory ? Hardly more than 
a bare possibility. But where can better explanation be had if 
this fails ? Possibly among the interpretations rejected by 
Addison. But if not, what then ? The passage in the poet is 
corrupted, and so it must remain. It certainly will so remain, 
if twenty new conjectures are invented. We might say that 
"pendentis " here was to be taken figuratively in the sense of 
uncertain, undecided. Mars " pendens " would then be the 
same as Mars "incertus" or Mars "communis." "Dii com- 
munes," says Servius (ad. v. ii8, lib. xii. ^Eneid), are Mars, 
Bellona, and Victory, so called from their favoring both parties 
in v/ar. And the line, — 

Pendentisque Dei (eflSgiem) perituro ostenderet hosti, 
would mean that the old Roman soldier was accustomed to 
wear the image of the impartial god in the presence of his 
enemy, who, in spite of the impartiality, was soon to perish, 
A very subtle idea, making the victories of the old Romans 
depend more upon their own bravery than on the friendly aid 
of their founder. Nevertheless, "non liquet." 

Note i8, p. 51. 

"Till I got acquainted with these Aurae (or sylphs)," says 
Spence (Poly metis, dial, xiii.), "I found myself always at a 
loss in reading the known story of Cephalus and Procris in 
Ovid. I could never imagine how Cephalus crying out, * Aura 
venias ' (though in ever so languishing a manner), could give 
anybody a suspicion of his being false to Procris. As I had 
been always used to think that Aura signified only the air in 
general, or a gentle breeze in particular, I thought Procris's 
jealousy less founded than the most extravagant jealousies 
generally are. But when I had once found that Aura might 
signify a very handsome young woman as well as the air, the 
case was entirely altered, and the story seemed to go on in a 
very reasonable manner." I will not take back in the note the 



NOTES. 



215 



approval bestowed in the text on this discovery, on which 
Spence so plumes himself. But I cannot refrain from remark- 
ing that, even without it, the passage was very natural and 
intelligible. We only needed to know that Aura occurs fre- 
quently among the ancients as a woman's name. According to 
Nonnus, for instance (Dionys. lib. xlviii.), the nymph of Diana 
was thus named, who, for claiming to possess a more manly 
beauty than the goddess herself, was, as a punishment for her 
presumption, exposed in her sleep to the embraces of Bacchus. 

Note 19, p. 52. 
JuvENALis Satyr, viii. v. 52-55. 

. . . Attu 

Nil nisi Cecropides; truncoque similllmus Hermael 
Nullo quippe alio vincis discrimine, quam quod 
lUi marmoreum caput est, tua vivit imago. 

" But thou art nothing if not a descendant of Cecrops ; in 
body most like a Hermes ; forsooth the only thing in which 
you surpass that, is that your head is a living image, while the 
Hermes is marble." If Spence had embraced the old Greek 
writers in his work, a fable of ^sop might perhaps — and yet 
perhaps not — have occurred to him, which throws still clearer 
light upon this passage in Juvenal. " Mercury," ^sop tells us, 
" wishing to know in what repute he stood among men, con- 
cealed his divinity, and entered a sculptor's studio. Here he 
beheld a statue of Jupiter, and asked its value. ' A drachm,' 
was the answer. Mercury smiled. * And this Juno } ' he 
asked again. 'About the same.' The god meanwhile had 
caught sight of his own image, and thought to himself, — *I, 
as the messenger of the gods, from whom come all gains, must 
be much more highly prized by men.' 'And this god,' he 
asked, pointing to his own image, * how dear might that be ? ' 
'That?' replied the artist, 'buy the other two, and I will 
throw that in.'" Mercury went away sadly crestfallen. But 
the artist did not recognize him, and could therefore have had 
no intention of wounding his self-love. The reason for his set- 
ting so small a value on the statue nrust have lain in its work- 



2l6 



NOTES. 



manship. The less degree of reverence due to the god whom 
it represented could have had nothing to do with the matter, 
for the artist values his works according to the skill, industry, 
and labor bestowed upon them, not according to the rank and 
dignity of the persons represented. If a statue of Mercury 
cost less than one of Jupiter or Juno, it was because less 
skill, industry, and labor had been expended upon it. And 
such was the case here. The statues of Jupiter and Juno 
were full-length figures, while that of Mercury was a miserable 
square post, with only the head and shoulders of the god upon 
it. What wonder, then, that it might be thrown in without 
extra charge ? Mercury overlooked this circumstance, from 
having in mind only his own fancied superiority, and his 
humiliation was therefore as natural as it was merited. We 
look in vain among the commentators, translators, and imita- 
tors of ^sop's fables for any trace of this explanation. I 
could mention the names of many, were it worth the trouble, 
who have understood the story literally ; that is, have not 
understood it at all. On the supposition that the workman- 
ship of all the statues was of the same degree of excellence, 
there is an absurdity in the fable which these scholars have 
either failed to perceive or have very much exaggerated. 
Another point which, perhaps, might be taken exception to in 
the fable, is the price the sculptor sets upon his Jupiter. No 
potter can make a puppet for a drachm. The drachm here 
must stand in general for something very insignificant. (Fab. 
^sop, 90.) 

Note 20, p. 53. 

CRETius de R. N. lib. v. 736-747. 

It Ver, et Venus, et Veneris praenuntius ante 
Pinnatus graditur Zeph>Tus ; vestigia propter 
Flora quibus mater prsespargens ante vial 
Cuncta coloriljus egregiis et odoribus opplet, 
Inde loci sequitur Calor aridus, et comes una 
Pulverulenta Ceres ; et Etesia flabra Aquilonum. 
Inde Autumnus adit ; graditur simul Evius Evan ; 
Inde aliae tempestates ventique sequuntur, 
Altitonans Vultumus et Auster f ulr line pollens. 



NOTES. 



217 



Tandem Bruma nives adfert, pigrumque rigorem 
Reddit, Hyems sequitur, crepitans ac dentibus Algus. 

Spring advances and Venus and winged Zephyrus, the herald 
of Venus, precedes, whose path mother Flora fills with won- 
drous flowers and odors. Then follow in order dry Heat and 
his companion dusty Ceres, and the Etesian blasts of the 
Northwind. Then Autumn approaches, and Evian Bacchus. 
Then other tempests and winds, deep-thundering Volturnus 
and Auster (south and south-east winds), mighty with light- 
nings. At length, the solstice brings snow, and slothful numb- 
ness returns ; Winter follows, and cold with chattering teeth, 

Spence regards this passage as one of the most beautiful in 
the whole poem, and it is certainly one on which the fame of 
Lucretius as a poet chiefly rests. But, surely, to say that the 
whole description was probably taken from a procession of 
statues representing the seasons as gods, is to detract very much 
from his merit, if not to destroy it altogether. And what rea- 
son have we for the supposition ? This, says the English- 
man : " Such processions of their deities in general were as 
common among the Romans of old, as those in honor of the 
saints are in the same country to this day. All the expres- 
sions used by Lucretius here come in very aptly, if applied to 
a procession." 

Excellent reasons ! Against the last, particularly, we might 
make many objections. The very epithets applied to the various 
personified abstractions, — " Calor aridus," " Ceres pulveru- 
lenta," "Volturnus altitonans," "fulmine pollens Auster," 
"Algus dentibus crepitans," — show that they received their 
characteristics from the poet and not from the artist. He 
would certainly have treated them very differently. Spence 
seems to have derived his idea of a procession from Abraham 
Preigern, who, in his remarks on this passage, says, "Ordo 
est quasi Pompae cujusdam. Ver et Venus, Zephyrus et 
Flora," &c. But Spence should have been content to stop 
there. To say that the poet makes his seasons move as in a 
procession, is all very well ; but to say that he learned their 
sequences from a procession, is nonsense. 



2l8 



NOTES. 



Note 21, p. 62. 
Valerius Flaccus, lib. ii. Argonaut, v. 265-273, 

Serta patri, juvenisque comara vestisque Lyaei 
Induit, et medium curru locat ; asraque circum 
Tympanaque et plenas tacita formidine cistas. 
Ipsa sinus hederisque ligat famularibus artus ; 
Pampineamque quatit ventosis ictibus hastam, 
Respiciens ; teneat virides velatus habenas 
Ut pater, et nivea tumeant ut cornua mitra, 
Et sacer ut Bacchum referat scj'phus. 

" The maid clothes her father with the garlands, the locki 
and the garments of Bacchus, and places him in the centre of 
the chariot ; around him the brazen drums and the boxes filled 
with nameless terror; herself, looking back, binds his hair 
and limbs with ivy and strikes windy blows with the vine- 
wreathed spear ; veiled like the father she holds the green 
reins ; the horns project under the white turban, and the 
sacred goblet tells of Bacchus." 

The word "tumeant," in the last line but one, would seem to 
imply that the horns were not so small as Spence fancies. 

Note 22, p. 62. 

The so-called Bacchus in the garden of the Medicis at Rome 
(Montfaucon Suppl. aux Ant. T. i, p. 254) has little horns 
growing from the brow. But for this very reason some critics 
suppose it to be a faun. And indeed such natural horns are 
an insult to the human countenance, and can only be becoming 
in beings supposed to occupy a middle station between men 
and beasts. The attitude also and the longing looks the figure 
casts upward at the grapes, belong more properly to a follower 
of the god than to the god himself. I am reminded here of 
what Clemens Alexandrinus says of Alexander the Great. 
(Protrept. p. 48, edit. Pott.) 'Ej3ovXETo de koi 'A/le^avdpo? 
'AfifjLuvog vlog elvaL 6okeIv, koi Kepuacpopo^ avaTcXaTTsa&cu npog tuv 
ayaT^liajTo-noLuv , to KaXdv av&pdnov vjSptaaL a7Tevdo)v Kepari. It 
was Alexander's express desire to be represented in his statue 
with horns. He was well content with the insult thus done to 



NOTES. 



219 



human beauty, if only a divine origin might be imputed to 
him. 

Note 23, p. 64. 

When I maintained in a former chapter that the old artists had 
never made a fury, it had not escaped me that the furies had 
more than one temple, which certainly would not have been 
left devoid of their statues. Pausanias found some of wood 
m their temple at Cerynea, not large nor in any way remark- 
able. It would seem that the art, which had no opportunity of 
displaying itself on them, sought to make amends on the im- 
ages of the priestesses which stood in the hall of the temple, 
as they were of stone and of very beautiful workmanship. 
(Pausanias Achaic. cap. xxv. p. 587, edit. Kuhn.) Neither 
had I forgotten that heads of them were supposed to have 
been found on an abraxas, made known by Chifiletius, and on 
a lamp by Licetus. (Dissertat. sur les Furies par Bannier ; 
Memoires de I'Academie des Inscript. T. v. 48.) Neither 
was I unacquainted with the Etruscan vase of Gorius (Tabl. 
151. Musei Etrusci) whereon are Orestes and Pylades at- 
tacked by furies. But I was speaking of works of art, under 
which head I consider none of these to come. If the latter 
deserve more than the others to be included under the name, 
it would in one aspect rather confirm my theory than contra- 
dict it. For, little as the Etruscan artists aimed at beauty in 
most cases, they yet seem to have characterized the furies 
more by their dress and attributes than by any terrible aspect 
of countenance. These figures thrust their torches at Orestes 
and Pylades, with such a tranquil expression of face that they 
almost seem to be terrifying them in sport. The horror they 
inspire in Orestes and Pylades appears from the fear of the 
two men, not at all from the shape of the furies themselves. 

They are, therefore, at once furies and no furies. They per- 
form the office of furies, but without that appearance of vio- 
lence and rage which we are accustomed to associate with the 
name. They have not that brow which, as Catullus says, 
"expirantis praeportat pectoris iras." Winkelmann thcught 



220 



NOTES. 



lately that he had discovered, upon a cornelian in the cabine\ 
of Stoss, a fury, running, with streaming hair and garments, 
and a dagger in her hand. (Library of the Fine Arts, vol. v.) 
Von Hagedorn at once counselled all the artists to turn this 
discovery to account, and represent furies thus in their pic- 
tures. (Betrachtungen iiber die Malerei, p. 222.) But Win- 
kelmann himself presently threw doubt on his discovery, 
because he did not find that the ancients ever armed the 
furies with daggers instead of torches. (Descript. des Pierres 
Gravees, p. 84.) He must then consider the figures on the 
coins of the cities of Lyrba and Massaura, which Spanheim 
calls furies (Les Cesars de Julien, p. 44), to be not such but a 
Hecate triformis. Else here would be exactly such a fury, 
with a dagger in each hand, and strangely enough also with 
flowing hair, while in the other figures the hair is covered with 
a veil. But granting Winkelmann's first supposition to have 
been correct, the same would apply to this engraved stone as 
to the Etruscan vase, unless owing to the fineness of the work 
the features were indistinguishable. Besides, all engraved 
stones, from their use as seals, belong rather to symbolism ; 
and the figures on them are more often a conceit of the owner 
than the voluntary work of the artist. 

Note 24, p. 64. 

Fast. lib. vi. 295-98. 

Esse diu stultus Vestae simulacra putavi : 

Mox didici curvo nulla subesse tholo. 
Ignis inextinctus templo celatur in illo ; 

Effigiem nullam Vesta, nec ignis, habet. 

"I long foolishly thought there were images of Vesta; then 
I found that none existed beneath the arching dome. An ever- 
burning fire is hidden in that temple. Image there is none 
either of Vesta or of fire." 

Ovid is speaking only of the worship of Vesta at Rome, 
and of the temple erected to her there by Numa, of whom he 
just before says ; * 



NOTES. 



221 



Regis opus placidi, quo non metuentius ullum 
Numinis ingenium terra Sabina tulit. 

" The work o£ that peaceful king who feared the gods more 
than any other offspring of the Sabine land." 

Note 25, p. 65. 

Fast. lib. iii. v. 45, 46. 

Sylvia fit mater : Vestae simulacra feruntur 
Virgineas oculis opposuisse manus. 

Spence should thus have compared the different parts ot 
Ovid together. The poet is speaking of different times ; here 
of the state of things before Numa, there of the state of things 
after him. Statues of her were worshipped in Italy as they 
were in Troy, whence ^neas brought her rites with him. 

^ Manibus vittas, Vestamque potentem, 

iEtemumque adytis effert penetralibus ignem, 

says Virgil of the ghost of Hector, after he had warned iEneas 
to fly. "He bears in his hands from the innermost shrine 
garlands, and mighty Vesta and the eternal fire." Here the 
eternal fire is expressly distinguished from Vesta herself and 
from her statue. Spence cannot have consulted the Roman 
poets with much care, since he allowed such a passage as this 
to escape him. 

Note 26, p. 65. 

Plinius, lib. xxxvi. sect. 4. " Scopas fecit. — Vestam sedentem 
laudatam in Servilianis hortis." Lipsius must have had this 
passage in mind when he wrote (de Vesta cap. 3) : " Plinius 
Vestem sedentem effingi solitam ostendit, a stabilitate." But 
what Pliny says of a single work by Scopas he ought not to 
have taken for a generally accepted characteristic. In fact, 
he observes that on coins Vesta was as often represented 
standing as sitting. This, however, was no correction of 
Pliny, but only of hi> own mistaken conception. 



222 



NOTES. 



Note 27, p. 66. 

Georg. Codinus de Originib. Constant. Trjv yriv Xeyovaiv 
''Eanav, Koi irTiUTTOvacv avrr^v yvvcuKa, rv^navov ^aoToCjavcav , etteiS^ 
Tovg ave/iovg fj yrj if kavTTjv ovyK^EiEt. Suidas, following him, or 
both following some older authority, says the same thing 
under the word 'Eona. " Under the name of Vesta the Earth 
is represented by a woman bearing a drum, in which she is 
supposed to hold the winds confined." The reason is some- 
what puerile. It would have sounded better to say that she 
carried a drum, because the ancients thought her figure bore 
some resemblance to one, oxVH-o, avrrjc TV/nravoeidEg Ecvat. (Plu- 
tarchus de placitis Philos. cap. 10, id. de facie in orbe Lunae.) 
Perhaps, after all, Codinus was mistaken in the figure or the 
name or both. Possibly he did not know what better name to 
give to what he saw Vesta holding, than a drum. Or he 
might have heard it called tympanum, and the only thing the 
word suggested to him was the instrument known to us as a 
kettle-drum. But " tympana " were also a kind of wheel. 

Hinc radios trivere rotis, hinc tympana plaustris 
Agricolae. — (Virgilius Georgic. lib. ii. 444.) 

Very similar to such a wheel appears to me the object borne 
by Fabretti's Vesta (ad Tabulam Iliadis, p. 334) which that 
scholar takes to be a hand-mill. 

Note 28, p. 70. 

Lib. i. Od. 35. 

Te semper anteit saeva Necessitas: 
Clavos trabales et cuneos manu 
Gestans ahenea ; nec severus 
Uncus abest liqnidumque plumbum. 

In this picture of Necessity drawn by Horace, perhaps the 
richest in attributes of any to be found in the old poets, the 
nails, the clamps, and the liquid lead, whether regarded as 
means of confinement or implements of punishment, still 
belong to the class of poetical, rather than allegorical, attri- 
outes. But, even so, they are too crowf"\ed ; and the passage 



NOTES. 



223 



IS one of the least effective in Horace. Sanadon says : 
**J'ose dire que ce tableau, pris dans le detail, serait plus 
beau sur la toile que dans une ode heroique. Je ne puis 
souffrir cet attirail patibulaire de clous, de coins, de crocs, et 
de plomb fondu. J'ai cru en devoir decharger la traduction, 
en susbtituant les idees generales aux idees singulieres. C'est 
dommage que le poete ait eu besoin de ce correctif." Sana- 
don's sentiment was fine and true, but he does not give the 
right ground for it. The objection is not that these attributes 
are the paraphernalia of the gallows, for he had but to inter- 
pret them in their other sense to make them the firmest sup- 
ports of architecture. Their fault is in being addressed to the 
eye and not to the ear. For all impressions meant for the eye, 
but presented to us through the ear, are received with effort, 
and produce no great degree of vividness. These lines of 
Horace remind me of a couple of oversights on the part of 
Spence, which give us no very good idea of the exactitude 
with which he has studied the passages he cites from the old 
poets. He is speaking of the image under which the Romans 
represented faith or honesty. (Dial, x.) " The Romans," he 
says, " called her ' Fides ; ' and, when they called her * Sola 
Fides,' seem to mean the same as we do by the words 'down- 
right honesty.' She is represented with an erect, open air, and 
with nothing but a thin robe on, so fine that one might 
see through it. Horace therefore calls her * thin-dressed ' in 
one of his odes, and 'transparent' in another." In these few 
lines are not less than three gross errors. First, it is false that 
" sola " was a distinct epithet applied to the goddess Fides. In 
the two passages from Livy, which he adduces as proof (lib. i. 
sect. 21, lib. ii. sect. 3), the word has only its usual significa- 
tion, — the exclusion of all else. In one place, indeed, the 
"soli" has been questioned by the critics, whcr think it must 
have crept into the text through an error in writing, occasioned 
by the word next to it, which is "solenne." In the other 
passage cited, the author is not speaking of fidelity at all, but 
of innocence, Innocentia. Secondly, Horace, in one of his 
odes (the thirty-fifth of the first book, mentioned above), is 
said to have applied to Fides the epithet th'n-dressed : 



224 



NOTES. 



Te spes, et albo rara fides colil 
Velata panno. 

"Rarus," it is true, can also mean thin; but here it means 
only rare, seldom appearing, and is applied to Fidelity herself, 
not to her clothing. Spence would have been right, had the 
poet said, "Fides raro velata panno." Thirdly, Horace is 
said to have elsewhere called faith or honesty transparent, in 
the sense in which friends protest to one another, " I wish you 
could read my heart." This meaning is said to be found in 
the line of the eighteenth ode of the First Book : 

Arcanique Fides prodiga, pellucidior vitro. 

How can a critic allow himself to be thus misled by a word ? 
Is a faith, " arcani prodiga," lavish of secrets, faithfulness ? 
is it not rather faithlessness ? And it is of faithlessness, in 
fact, that Horace says, She is transparent as glass, because 
she betrays to every eye the secrets entrusted to her." 

Note 29, p. 71. 

Apollo delivers the washed and embalmed body of Sarpedon 
to Death and Sleep, that they may bring him to his native 
country. (Iliad, xvi. 681, 682.) 

ns/iire 6e /ztv irof^notaiv a/ia KpaiirvolcL ^epea-^ai, 
"Tttvu kol QavciTG) dtdyfiaoatv. 

Caylus recommends this idea to the painter, but adds : " It is 
a pity that Homer has given us no account of the attributes 
under which Sleep was represented in his day. We recognize 
the god only by his act, and we crown him with poppies. These 
ideas are modern. The first is of service, but cannot be em- 
ployed in the present case, where even the flowers would be out 
of keeping in connection with the figure of Death." (Tableaux 
tires de ITliade, de I'Odyssee d'Homere, et de I'Eneide de Vir- 
gile, avec des observations generales sur le costume, a Paris, 
1757-58.) That is requiring of Homer ornamentations of that 
petty kind most at variance with the nobility of his style. The 
most ingenious attributes he could have bestowed on Sleep 
would not have characterized him so perfectly, nor have brought 



NOTES. 



225 



so vivid a picture of him before us, as the single touch which 
makes him the tv^^in brother of Death. Let the artist seek to 
express this, and he may dispense with all attributes. The old 
artists did, in fact, make Sleep and Death resemble each other, 
like twin-brothers. On a chest of cedar, in the Temple of Juno 
at Elis, they both lay as boys in the arms of Night. One was 
white, the other black ; one slept, the other only seemed to 
sleep ; the feet of both were crossed. For so I should prefer 
to translate the words of Pausanias (Eliac. cap. xviii. p. 422, 
edit. Kuhn), afj.<j)OT£povc dceaTpa/j./j.evovg rovg nddag, rather than b^ 
" crooked feet," as Gedoyn does, " les pieds contrefaits." What 
would be the meaning of crooked feet .'' To lie with crossed 
feet is customary with sleepers. Sleep is thus represented by 
Maffei. (Raccol. PI. 151.) Modern artists have entirely aban- 
doned this resemblance between Sleep and Death, which we 
find among the ancients, and always represent Death as a 
skeleton, or at best a skeleton covered with skin. Caylus 
should have been careful to tell the artists whether they had 
better follow the custom of the ancients or the moderns in this 
respect. He seems to declare in favor of the modern view, since 
he regards Death as a figure that would not harmonize well 
with a flower-crowned companion. Has he further considered 
how inappropriate this modern idea would be in a Homeric 
picture ? How could its loathsome character have failed to 
shock him ? I cannot bring myself to believe that the little 
metal figure in the ducal gallery at Florence, representing a 
skeleton sitting on the ground, with one arm on an urn of 
ashes (Spence's Polymetis, tab. xli.), is a veritable antique. 
It cannot possibly represent Death, because the ancients 
represented him very differently. Even their poets never 
thought of him under this repulsive shape. 

Note 30, p. 76. 

Richardson cites this work as an illustration of the rule that 
the attention of the spectator should be diverted by nothing, 
however admirable, from the chief figure. *' Protogenes," he 
says, "had introduced into his famous picture of lalysus a 



226 



NOTES. 



partridge, painted with so much skill that it seemed alive, and 
was admired by all Greece. But, because it attracted all eyes 
to itself, to the detriment of the whole piece, he effaced it." 
(Traite de la Peinture, T. i. p. 46.) Richardson is mistaken; 
this partridge was not in the lalysus, but in another picture of 
Protogenes called the Idle Satyr, or Satyr in Repose, Sdrupof 
avaTzavoficvog. I should hardly have mentioned this error, 
which arose from a misunderstanding of a passage in Pliny, 
had not the same mistake been made by Meursius. (Rhodi. 
lib. i. cap. 14.) "In eadem tabula, scilicet in qua lalysus, 
Satyrus erat, quem dicebant Anapauome7to7t, tibeas tenens." 

Something of the same kind occurs in Winkelmann. (Von 
der Nachahm. der Gr. W. in der Mai. und Bildh. p. 56.) 
Strabo is the only authority for this partridge story, and he 
expressly discriminates between the lalysus and the Satyr 
leaning against a pillar on which sat the partridge. (Lib. xiv.) 
Meursius, Richardson, and Winkelmann misunderstood the 
passage in Pliny (lib. xxxv. sect. 36), from not perceiving that 
he was speaking of two different pictures : the one which 
saved the city, because Demetrius would not assault the place 
where it stood ; and another, which Protogenes painted during 
the siege. The one was lalysus, the other the Satyr. 

Note 31, p. 79. 

This invisible battle of the gods has been imitated by Quintus 
Calaber in his Twelfth Book, with the evident design of im- 
proving on his model. The grammarian seems to have held 
it unbecoming in a god to be thrown to the ground by a stone. 
He therefore makes the gods hurl at one another huge masses 
of rock, torn up from Mount Ida, which, however, are shat- 
tered against the limbs of the immortals and fly like sand 
about them. 

. . . OL Sk Koluva^ 
Xspctv uTzol)()r]^avTeg h/rf ovdeog 'ISatoto 
(iaXkov kif akVqKovq- al 6e t}ia/j,d-&otai niiouu 
liela SieoKtSvavTO ■&eC)v Ttepl 6' aax^Ta yvia 
^yvvfiEva Slu rvvda. . , , 



NOTES. 



227 



A conceit which destroys the effect by marring our idea of 
the size of the gods, and throwing contempt on their weapons. 
If gods throw stones at one another, the stones must be able 
to hurt them, or they are like silly boys pelting each other 
with earth. So old Homer remains still the wiser, and all 
the fault-finding of cold criticism, and the attempts of men 
of inferior genius to vie with him, serve but to set forth his 
wisdom in clearer light. I do not deny that Quintus's imitation 
has excellent and original points ; but they are less in harmony 
with the modest greatness of Homer than calculated to do 
honor to the stormy fire of a more modern poet. That the 
cry of the gods, which rang to the heights of heaven and the 
depths of hell, should not be heard by mortals, seems to me a 
most expressive touch. The cry was too mighty to be grasped 
by the imperfect organs of human hearing. 

Note 32, p. 80. 

No one who has read Homer once through, ever so hastily, 
will differ from this statement as far as regards strength and 
speed ; but he will not perhaps at once recall examples where 
the poet attaches superhuman size to his gods. I would there- 
fore refer him, in addition to the description of Mars just 
quoted, whose body covered seven hides, to the helmet of 
Minerva, Kweijv inarov noytuv TrpuAeeoo' apapvlav (Iliad, v. 744), 
under which could be concealed as many warriors as a hun- 
dred cities could bring into the field ; to the stride of Nep- 
tune (Iliad, xiii. 20) ; and especially to the lines from the 
description of the shield, where Mars and Minerva lead the 
troops of the beleaguered city. (Iliad, xviii. 516-519.) 

^03X^ ^' o'^^^ 'Ap77f Kol TlaXKag A'&rjvijf 
afj.<j)0) ;j;pD(7«w, XP^'^^'-^ elfiara eo-drjv, 
KoXd KOI ixeyaXo) avv revxsoLv, uore ■&eoj rrep, 
afi(j>ic upt^7i?LG)- laol 6' vtt' bM^oveg i}aav. 

. . . While the youths 
Marched on, with Mars and Pallas at their head. 
Both wrought in gold, with golden garments on, 



228 



NOTES. 



Stately and large in form, and over all 

Conspicuous in bright armor, as became 

Tb gods ; the rest were of an humbler size. — Bryant. 

Judging from the explanations they feel called upon to give 
of the great helmet of Minerva, Homer's commentators, old 
as well as new, seem not always sufficiently to have borne in 
mind this wonderful size of the gods. (See the notes on the 
above-quoted passage in the edition of Clarke and Ernesti.) 
But we lose much in majesty by thinking of the Homeric 
deities as of ordinary size, as we are accustomed to see them 
on canvas in the company of mortals. Although painting 
is unable to represent these superhuman dimensions, sculpture 
to a certain extent may, and I am convinced that the old 
masters borrowed from Homer their conception of the gods in 
general as well as the colossal size which they not infrequently 
gave them. (Herodot. lib. ii. p. 130, edit, Wessel.) Further 
remarks upon the use of the colossal, its excellent effect in 
sculpture and its want of effect in painting, I reserve for 
another place. 

Note 33, p. 82. 

Homer, I acknowledge, sometimes veils his deities in a cloud, 
but only when they are not to be seen by other deities. In 
the fourteenth book of the Iliad, for instance, where Juno and 
Sleep, r/epa kaaajj.£vuy betake themselves to Mount Ida, the crafty 
goddess's chief care was not to be discovered by Venus, whose 
girdle she had borrowed under pretence of a very different 
journey. In the same book the love-drunken Jupiter is 
obliged to surround himself and his spouse with a golden 
cloud to overcome her chaste reluctance. 

TTug k' eoi, el rig vui ■&eC)V aieLyeverauv 
evdovt a&pTjaecE. . . . 

She did not fear to be seen by men, but by the gods. And 
although Homer makes Jupiter say a few lines further on,— 

*Hp»7, [J-fjTe ■&eC)V roye deidi^c /ll^te nv' avdpcjv 
oipea^ar toIov rot kyd ve^og afitpuidhv^u, 
Xpvaeov. 



, NOTES. 



229 



'* Fear thou not that any god or man will look upon us," that 
does not prove that the cloud was needed to conceal them 
from the eyes of mortals, but that in this cloud they would be 
as invisible to the gods as they always were to men. So, 
when Minerva puts on the helmet of Pluto (Iliad, v. 485), 
which has the same effect of concealment that a cloud would 
have, it is not that she may be concealed from the Trojans, 
who either see her not at all or under the form of Sthenelus, 
but simply that she may not be recognized by Mars. 

Note 34, p. 87. 

Tableaux tires de I'lliade, Avert, p. 5. "On est toujours 
convenu, que plus un poeme fournissait d'images et d'actions, 
plus il avait de superiorite en poesie, Cette reflexion m'avait 
conduit a penser que le calcul des differens tableaux, qu' offrent 
les ppemes, pouvait servir a comparer le merite respectif des 
poemes et des poetes. Le nombre et le genre des tableaux 
que presentent ces grands ouvrages, auraient ete une espece de 
pierre de touche, ou, plutot, une balance certaine du merite 
de ces poemes et du genie de leurs auteurs." 

Note 35, p. 88. 

What we call poetic pictures, the ancients, as we learn from 
Longinus, called " phantasias ; " and what we call illusion in 
such pictures, they named "enargia." It was therefore said 
by some one, as Plutarch tells us (Erot. T. ii. edit. Henr. Steph. 
p. 1351), that poetic "phantasiae" were, on account of their 
"enargia," waking dreams: Al iroLTjTiKal t^avraaicu 6ia rrjv 
kvapyaav kypriyopoTOiv ivvTTVta elolv. I could wish that our 
modern books upon poetry had used this nomenclature, and 
avoided the word picture altogether. We should thus have 
been spared a multitude of doubtful rules, whose chief founda- 
tion is the coincidence of an arbitrary term. No one would then 
have thought of confining poetic conceptions within the limits 
of a material picture. But the moment these conceptions 
were called a poetic picture, the foundation for the error was 
laid. 



230 



NOTES. 



Note 36, p. 89. 

Iliad, iv. 105. 

aiTW iavXa to^ov bt^oov 

ml rb fiEv €v nare^TiKe Tavvoadftevoc, ttotI yai§ 

dy/c/Uvaf . . . 

avrdp 6 avXa irufxa ^aperprjg, ek 1 Aer' ibv 
a^Vqra TTTepbevTa, /j.e'XatvEuv tpj/ 6(hn>d(j)V 
alipa 6' knt vevp^ KaTSKoofiet TVtKpdv oiarbv, 
DiKe biiov y7M<pL6aQ ts Xa(3uv koI vevpa (36eui* 
vevpTv jUev fia^o) Tre2.aorv, to^ov de a'cdijpov. 
avTop hizeLdri KVK'Aorepec fteya to^ov huvtVy 
^y^e ^tbg, vtvprj 6e /liy' laxev akro ff oiarbQ 
b^v^elrjg, Ka-&' ofitXov tixLTTTEadai fieveaivuv. 

To bend that bow the warrior lowered it 

And pressed an end against the earth. . . . 

Then the Lycian drew aside 

The cover from his quiver, taking out 

A well-fledged arrow that had never flown, ^— 

A cause of future sorrows. On the string 

He laid that fatal arrow. . . . 

Grasping the bowstring and the arrow's notch 

He drew them back and forced the string to meet 

His breast, the arrow-head to meet the bow, 

Till the bow formed a circle. Then it twanged ; 

The cord gave out a shrilly sound ; the shaft 

Leaped forth in eager haste to reach the host. — Bryant. 



Note 37, p. 108. 
Prologue to the Satires, 340. 

That not in Fancy's maze he wandered long, 
But stooped to Truth and moralized his song. 

Ibid. 148. 

. . . Who could take oflfence 
While pure description held the place of sense ? 

Warburton's remark on this last line may have the force of 
an explanation by the poet himself. " He uses pure equivo- 
cally, to signify either chaste or empty ; and has given in this 



NOTES. 



231 



line what he esteemed the true character of descriptive poetry, 
as it is called, — a composition, in his opinion, as absurd as 
a feast made up of sauces. The use of a picturesque imagina- 
tion is to brighten and adorn good sense : so that to employ it 
only in description, is like children's delighting in a prism for 
the sake of its gaudy colors, which, when frugally managed 
and artfully disposed, might be made to represent and illus- 
trate the noblest objects in nature." 

Both poet and commentator seem to have regarded the 
matter rather from a moral than an artistic point of view. 
But so much the better that this style of poetry seems equally 
worthless from whichever point it be viewed. 

Note 38, p. 108. 

PoETiQUE Fran9aise, T. ii. p. 501. "J'ecrivais ces reflexions 
avant que les essais des Allemands dans ce genre (I'Eglogue) 
fussent connus parmi nous. lis ont execute ce que j'avais 
confu ; et s'ils parviennent a donner plus au moral et moins 
au detail des peintures physiques, ils excelleront dans ce 
genre, plus riche, plus vaste, plus fecond, et infiniment plus 
naturel et plus moral que celui de la galanterie champetre^ 

Note 39, p. 115. 

1 SEE that Servius attempts to excuse Virgil on other grounds, 
for the difference between the two shields has not escaped his 
notice. "Sane interest inter hunc et Homeri clypeum ; illic 
enim singula dum fiunt narrantur; hie vero perfecto opere 
nascuntur ; nam et hie arma prius accipit iEneas, quam spec- 
taret ; ibi postquam omnia narrata sunt, sic a Thetide deferun- 
tur ad Achillem." There is a marked difference between this 
and the shield of Homer : for there events are narrated one 
by one as they are done, here they are known by the finished 
work ; here the arms are received by ^neas before being 
seen, there, after all has been told, they are carried by Thetis 
to Achilles. (Ad. v. 625, lib. viii. ^neid.) Why? "For this 
reason," says Servius : " because, on the shield of ^neas, 
were represented not only the few events referred to by the 
poet, but, — 



232 



NOTES. 



. . . genus omne futurae 
Stirpis ab Ascanio, pugnataque in ordine bella, 

"AH the description of his future race from Ascanius, and the 
battles, in the order in which they should occur." It would 
have been impossible for the poet, in the same short space of 
time occupied by Vulcan in his work, to mention by name the 
long line of descendants, and to tell of all their battles in the 
order of their occurrence. That seems to be the meaning of 
Servius's somewhat obscure words : " Opportune ergo Virgi- 
lius, quia non videtur simul et narrationis celeritas potuisse 
connecti, et opus tam velociter expedire, ut ad verbum posset 
occurrere." Since Virgil could bring forward but a small 
part of "the unnarratable text of the shield," and not even 
that little while Vulcan was at work, he was obliged to reserve 
it till the whole was finished. For Virgil's sake, I hope that 
this argument of Servius is baseless. My excuse is much 
more creditable to him. What need was there of putting the 
whole of Roman history on a shield With few pictures 
Homer made his shield an epitome of all that was happen- 
ing in the world. It would almost seem that Virgil, despair- 
ing of surpassing the Greek in the design and execution of 
his pictures, was determined to exceed him at least in their 
number, and that would have been the height of childishness. 

Note 40, p. 118. 

" ScUTO ejus, in quo Amazonum proelium caelavit intumescente 
ambitu parmse ; ejusdem concava parte deorum et gigantum, 
dimicationem." 

" Her shield, on the convex side of which he sculptured a 
battle of the Amazons, and on the concave side the contest of 
the gods and giants." (Plinius, lib. xxxvi. sect. 4.) 

Note 41, p. 122. 

The first begins at line 483 and goes to line 489 ; the second 
extends from 490 to 509; the third, from 510 to 540; the 
fourth, from 541 to 549 ; the fifth, from 550 to 560 ; the sixth, 
from 561 to 572 ; the seventh, from 573 to 586 ; the eighth, 



NOTES. 



from 587 to 589 ; the ninth, from 590 to 605 ; and the tenth, 
from 606 to 608. The third picture alone is not so introduced ; 
but that it is one by itself is evident from the words introduc- 
ing the second, — h de dvu notrjae Tcoletc, — as also from ihm 
nature of the subject. 

Note 42, p. 123. 

Iliad, vol. v. obs. p. 61. In this passage Pope makes ax 
entirely false use of the expression " aerial perspective," which, 
in fact, has nothing to do with the diminishing of the siza 
according to the increased distance, but refers only to the 
change of color occasioned by the air or other medium through 
which the object is seen. A man capable of this blunder may 
justly be supposed ignorant of the whole subject. 

Note 43, p. 128. 

CoNSTANTiNUS Manasses Compend. Chron. p. 20 (edit. Venet). 
Madame Dacier was well pleased with this portrait of Manas- 
ses, except for its tautology. " De Helenae pulchritudine om- 
nium optime Constantinus Manasses ; nisi in eo tautologiam 
reprehendas. (Ad Dictyn Cretensem, lib. i. cap. 3, p. 5.) She 
also quotes, according to Mezeriac (Comment, sur les Epitres 
d'Ovide, T. i. p. 361), the descriptions given by Dares Phrygius, 
and Cedrenus, of the beauty of Helen. In the first there is 
one trait which sounds rather strange. Dares says that Helen 
had a mole between her eyebrows : " notam inter duo super- 
cilia habentem." But that could not have been a beauty. I 
wish the Frenchwoman had given her opinion. I, for my 
part, regard the word " nota " as a corruption, and think that 
Dares meant to speak of what the Greeks called iLiea6(ppvov, and 
the Latins, " glabella. " He means to say that Helen's eyebrows 
did not meet, but that there was a little space between them. 
The taste of the ancients was divided on this point. Some 
considered this space between the eyebrows beauty, others not. 
(Junius de Pictura Vet. lib. iii. cap. 9, p. 245.) Anacreon took a 
middle course. The eyebrows of his beloved maiden were 
neither perceptibly separated, nor were they fully grown to- 



234 



NOTES. 



gether : they tapered off delicately at a certain point He 
says to the artist who is to paint her (Od. 28) : — 

rd fj,ea6<Ppvov fii fiOL 

dlClKOTTTS, ^TjTE flloyC, 

l;^era) dirug kaeLvrj 
Tt "keTiTj-QoTioq ovvo^pvv 
iSXecpdpcov LTvv Ke?Mtv7]v. 

This is Pauer's reading, but the meaning is the same in other 
versions, and has been rightly givpn by Henr. Stephano : — 

Supercilii nigrantes 
Discrimina nec arcus, 
Confundito nec illos : 
Sed junge sic ut anceps 
Divortium relinquas, 
Quale esse cemis ipsi. 

But if my interpretation of Dares' meaning be the true one, 
what should we read instead of "notam ? " Perhaps "moram." 
For certainly "mora" may mean not only the interval of time 
before something happens, but also the impediment, the space 
between one thing and another. 

Ego inquieta montium jaceam mora, 

is the wish of the raving Hercules in Seneca, which Gronovius 
very well explains thus : *' Optat se medium jacere inter duas 
Symplegades, illarum velut moram, impedimentum, obicem; 
qui eas moretur, vetet aut satis arete conjungi, aut rursus dis- 
trahi." The same poet uses "laceratorum morae " in the sense 
of "juncturae." (Schrcederus ad. v. 762. Thyest.) 

Note 44, p. 131. 

DiALOGO della Pittura, intitolata 1' Aretino : Firenze 1735, 
p. 178. " Se vogliono i Pittori senza fatica trovare un perfetto 
esempio di bella Donna, legiano quelle Stanze dell' Ariosto, 
nelle quali egli discrive mirabilmente le belezze della Fata 
Alcina ; e vedranno parimente, quanto i buoni Poeti siano 
ancora essi Pittori." 



NOTES. 



235 



Note 45, p. 131. 

Ibid. "Ecco, che, quanto alia proporzione, 1' ingeniosissimo 
Ariosto assegna la migliore, che sappiano formar le mani de' 
piu eccellenti Pittori, usando questa voce industri, per dinotar 
la diligenza, che conviene al buono artefice." 

Note 46, p. 132. 

Ibid. "Qui 1' Ariosto colorisce, e in questo sue colorire 
dimostra essere un Titiano." 

Note 47, p. 132. 

Ibid. "Poteva 1' Ariosto nella guisa, che ha detto chioma 
bionda, dir chioma d' oro : ma gli parve forse, che havrebbe 
havuto troppo del Poetico. Da che si puo ritrar, che '1 
Pittore dee imitar 1 'oro, e non metterlo (come fanno i Mi- 
niatori) nelle sue Pitture, in modo, che si possa dire, que capelli 
non sono d' oro, ma par che risplendano, come 1' oro." What 
Dolce goes on to quote from Athenseus is remarkable, but 
happens to be a misquotation. I shall speak of it in another 
place. 

Note 48, p. 132. 

Ibid. "11 naso, che discende giu, havendo peraventura la 
considerazione a quelle forme de' nasi, che si veggono ne* 
ritratti delle belle Romane antiche." 

Note 49, p. 143. 

Pliny says of Apelles (lib. xxxv. sect. 36) : " Fecit et Dianam 
sacrificantium Virginum choro mixtam ; quibus vicisse Homeri 
versus videtur id ipsum describentis." " He also made a Diana 
surrounded by a band of virgins performing a sacrifice ; a 
work in which he would seem to have surpassed the verses of 
Homer describing the same thing." This praise may be per- 
fectly just ; for beautiful nymphs surrounding a beautiful god- 
dess, who towers above them by the whole height of her 
majestic brow, form a theme more fitting the painter than the 
poet. But I am somewhat suspicious of the word "sacrifican- 



236 



NOTES. 



tium." What have the njoiiphs of Diana to do with offering 
sacrifices ? Is that the occupation assigned them by Homer ? 
By no means. They roam with the goddess over hills and 
through forest ; they hunt, play, dance. (Odyss. vi. 102-106). 

olri & 'ApTEfUC dal Kaf ovpeoc; ioxiatpa 
7j Kara Tpvyerov nepi/xr/KETOv^ fi 'Epvuavidov 
TepTrofj£V7} KUTrpoLai kol uKeiyQ eXd<potoL' 
TTf 6e -d' ufia 'Nv/i<j>aL, Kovpat Acbc aiytoxoio 
aypovofioi nal^ovGr . . . 

As when o'er Erymanth Diana roves 

Or wide Taygetus's resounding groves ; 

A sylvan train the huntress queen surrounds, 

Her rattling quiver from her shoulder sounds ; 

Fierce in the sport along the mountain brow. 

They bay the boar or chase the bounding roe. 

High o'er the lawn with more majestic pace, 

Above the nymphs she treads with stately grace. — PoPB. 

Pliny, therefore, can hardly have written "sacrificantium," 
rather "venantium" (hunting), or something like it ; perhaps 
" sylvis vagantium" (roaming the woods), which corresponds 
more nearly in number of letters to the altered word. " Saltan- 
tium" (bounding), approaches most nearly to the irat^ovai of 
Homer. Virgil, also, in his imitation of this passage, represents 
the nymphs as dancing. {JEneid, i. 497, 498.) 

Qualis in Eurotae ripis, aut per juga Cynthi 
Exercet Diana choros ... 

Such on Eurotas' banks or Cynthus' height 

Diana seems ; and so she charms the sight, 

When in the dance the graceful goddess leads 

The choir of nymphs and overtops their heads. — DrydbN' 

Spence gives a remarkable criticism on this passage. (Poly- 
metis, dial, viii.) "This Diana," he says, "both in the picture 
and in the descriptions, was the Diana Venatrix, though she 
was not represented, either by Virgil or Apelles or Homer, as 
hunting with her nymphs ; but as employed with them in that 



NOTES. 



sort of dances which of old were regarded as very solemn 
acts of devotion." In a note he adds, "The expression of 
TTcu^eiv, used by Homer on this occasion, is scarce proper for 
hunting; as that of "choros exercere," in Virgil, should be 
understood of the religious dances of old, because dancing, in 
the old Roman idea of it, was indecent, even for men, in public, 
unless it were the sort of dances used in honor of Mars or 
Bacchus or some other of their gods." Spence supposes that 
those solemn dances are here referred to, which, among the 
ancients, were counted among the acts of religion. " It is in 
consequence of this," he says, "that Pliny, in speaking of 
Diana's nymphs on this very occasion, uses the word "sacrifi- 
care " of them, which quite determines these dances of theirs to 
have been of the religious kind." He forgets that, in Virgil, 
Diana joins in the dance, " exercet Diana choros." If this were 
a religious dance, in whose honor did Diana dance it ? in her 
own, or in honor of some other deity ? Both suppositions are 
absurd. If the old Romans did hold dancing in general to be 
unbecoming in a grave person, was that a reason why their 
poets should transfer the national gravity to the manners of 
the gods, which were very differently represented by the old 
Greek poets.? When Horace says of Venus (Od. iv. lib. i.),— 

Jam Cytherea choros ducit Venus, imminente luna ; 
Junctffique Nymphis Gratiae decentes 
Alterno terram quatiunt pede . . . 

"Now Cytherean Venus leads the bands, under the shining 
moon, and the fair graces, joined with the nymphs, beat the 
ground with alternate feet," — were these, likewise, sacred, 
religious dances ? But it is wasting words to argue against 
such a conceit. 

Note 50, p. 145. 

Plinius, lib. xxxiv. sect. 19. " Ipse tamen corporum tenus 
curiosus, animi sensus non expressisse videtur, capillum quo- 
que et pubem nou emendatius fecisse, quam rudis antiquitas 
instituisset. 



233 



NOTES, 



" Hie primus nervos et venas expressit, capillumque diligen- 
tius." 

Note 51, p. 162. 

The Connoisseur, vol. 1. no. 21. The beauty of Knonm- 
quaiha is thus described. " He was struck with the glossy 
hue of her complexion, which shone like the jetty down on 
the black hogs of Hessaqua ; he was ravished with the prest 
gristle of her nose ; and his eyes dwelt with admiration on the 
flaccid beauties of her breasts, which descended to her navel." 
And how were these charms set off by art ? " She made a 
varnish of the fat of goats mixed with soot, with which she 
anointed her whole body as she stood beneath the rays of the 
sun ; her locks were clotted with melted grease, and powdered 
with the yellow dust of Buchu ; her face, which shone like the 
polished ebony, was beautifully varied with spots of red 
earth, and appeared like the sable curtain of the night bespan- 
gled with stars ; she sprinkled her limbs with wood-ashes, and 
perfumed them with the dung of Stinkbingsem. Her arms 
and legs were entwined with the shining entrails of an heifer ; 
from her neck there hung a pouch composed of the stomach 
of a kid ; the wings of an ostrich overshadowed the fleshy 
promontories behind ; and before she wore an apron formed 
of the shaggy ears of a lion." 

Here is further the marriage ceremony of the loving pair. 
** The Surri, or Chief Priest, approached them, and, in a deep 
voice, chanted the nuptial rites to the melodious grumbling of 
the Gom-Gom ; and, at the same time (according to the 
manner of Caffraria), bedewed them plentifully with the 
urinary benediction. The bride and bridegroom rubbed in 
the precious stream with ecstasy, while the briny drops trickled 
from their bodies, like the oozy surge from the rocks of 
Chirigriqua." 

Note 52, p. 166. 

The Sea- Voyage, act iii. scene i. A French pirate ship is 
thrown upon a desert island. Avarice and en ry cause quarrels 



NOTES. 



among the men, and a couple of wretches, who had long 
suffered extreme want on the island, seize a favorable oppor- 
tunity to put to sea in the ship. Robbed thus of their whole 
stock of provisions, the miserable men see death, in its worst 
forms, staring them in the face, and express to each other 
their hunger and despair as follows : — 

Lamure. Oh, what a tempest have I in my stomach I 
How my empty guts crj- out ! My wounds ache. 
Would they would bleed again, that I might get 
Something to quench my thirst t 

Franville. O Lamure, the happiness my dogs had 
When I kept house at home 1 They had a storehouse, 
A storehouse of most blessed bones and crusts. 
Happy crusts! Oh, how sharp hunger pinches me I 

Lamure, How now, what news? 

Morillar. Hast any meat yet? 

Franville. Not a bit that I can see. 
Here be goodly quarries, but they be cruel hard 
To gnaw. I ha' got some mud, we'll eat it with spoons; 
Very good thick mud ; but it stinks damnably. 
There's old rotten trunks of trees, too. 
But not a leaf nor blossom in all the island. 

Lamure. How it looks I 

Morillar. It stinks too. 

Lamure. It may be poison. 

Franville. Let it be any thing. 
So I can get it down. Why, man. 
Poison's a princely dish ! 

Morillar. Hast thou no biscuit? 
No crumbs left in thy pocket ? Here is my doubleti 
Give me but three small crumbs. 

Franville. Not for three kingdoms, 
If I were master of 'em. Oh, Lamure, 
But one poor joint of mutton we ha' scorned, man I 

Lamure. Thou speak' st of paradise; 
Or but the snuffs of those healths, 
We have lewdly at midnight flung away. 

Morillar- Ah, but to Hck the glasses I 

But this is nothing, compared with the next scene, when tlio 
ship's surgeon enters. 

Franville. Here comes the surgeon. What 
Hast thou discovered ? Smile, smile, and comfort as* 



240 



NOTES. 



Surgeon. I am expiring, 
Smile they that can. I can find nothing, gentlemen, 
Here's nothing can be meat without a miracle. 
Oh, that I had my boxes and my lints now, 
My stupes, my tents, and those sweet helps of nature! 
What dainty dishes could I make of theml 

Morillar. Hast ne'er an old suppository? 

Surgeon. Oh, would I had, sir! 

Lamure. Or but the paper where such a cordial, 
Potion, or pills hath been entombed! 

Franville. Or the best bladder, where a cooling glister? 

Morillar- Hast thou no searcloths left? 
Nor any old poultices ? 

Franville. We care not to what it hath been ministered. 

Surgeon. Sure I have none of these dainties, gentlemen. 

Franville. Where's the great wen 
Thou cut'st from Hugh the sailor's shoulder? 
That would serve now for a most princely banquet. 

Surgeon. Ay, if we had it, gentlemen. 
I flung it overboard, slave that I was. 

Lamure. A most improvident villain t 

Note 53, p. 177. 

iENEiD, lib. ii. 7, and especially lib. xi. 183. We might safely, 
therefore, add such a work to the list of lost writings by this 
author. 

Note 54, p. 179. 

Consult the list of inscriptions on ancient works of art in 
Mar. Gudius. (ad Phaedri fab. v. lib. i.), and, in connection 
with that, the correction made by Gronovius. (Praef. ad Tom. 
ix. Thesauri Antiq. Graec.) 

Note 55, p. 182. 

He at least expressly promises to do so : " quae suis locis red- 
dam " (which I shall speak of in their proper place). But if this 
was not wholly forgotten, it was at least done very cursorily, and 
not at all in the way this promise had led us to expect. When he 
writes (lib. xxxv. sect. 39), "Lysippus quoque ^ginae picturae 
suae inscripsit, eveKavoev ; quod profecto non fecisset, nisi 
encaustica inventa," he evidently uses kviKavcEv to prove 



NOTES. 



241 



something quite different. If he meant, as Hardouin sup- 
poses, to indicate in this passage one of the works whose 
inscription was written in definite past time, it would have 
been worth his while to put in a word to that effect. Har- 
douin finds reference to the other two works in the follow- 
ing passage : " Idem (Divus Augustus) in Curia quoque, 
quam in Comitio consecrabat, duas tabulas impressit parieti : 
Nemeam sedentem supra leonem, palmigeram ipsam, adstante 
cum baculo sene, cujus supra caput tabula bigae dependet. 
Nicias scripsit se inussisse ; tali enim usus est verbo. Alterius 
tabulas admiratio est, puberem filium seni patri similem esse, 
salva aetatis differentia, supervolante aquila draconem com- 
plexa. Philochares hoc suum opus esse testatus est." (Lib. 
XXXV. sect. 10.) Two different pictures are here described 
which Augustus had set up in the newly built senate-house. The 
second was by Philochares, the first by Nicias. All that is said 
of the picture by Philochares is plain and clear, but there are 
certain difficulties in regard to the other. It represented Nemea 
seated on a lion, a palm-branch in her hand, and near her an old 
man with a staff : "cujus supra caput tabula bigas dependet." 
"What is the meaning of that } " over his head hung a tablet 
on which was painted a two-horse chariot." That is the 
only meaning the words will bear. Was there, then, a 
smaller picture hung over the large one ? and were both by 
Nicias ? Hardouin must so have understood it, else where 
were the two pictures by Nicias, since the other is expressly 
ascribed to Philochares ? " Inscripsit Nicias igitur geminae 
huic tabulae suum nomen in hunc modum : '0NIKIA2 ENE- 
KAT2EN : atque adeo e tribus operibus, quae absolute fuisse 
inscripta, ILLE FECIT, indicavit Praefatio ad Titum, duo 
haec sunt Niciae." I should like to ask Hardouin ore ques- 
tion. If Nicias had really used the indefinite, and not the 
definite past tense, and Pliny had merely wished to say that 
the master, instead of ypu(peiv, had used eyKatetv, would he not 
still have been obliged to say in Latin, " Nicias scripsit se 
mussisse ? " But I will not insist upon this point. Pliny may 
really have meant to indicate here one of the three works 

16 



242 



NOTES. 



before referred to. But who will be induced to believe that 
there were two pictures, placed one above the other ? Not I 
for one. The words ** cujus supra caput tabula bigae depen- 
det" must be a corruption. "Tabula bigas," a picture of 
a two-horse chariot, does not sound much like Pliny, although 
Pliny does elsewhere use "biga" in the singular. What sort 
of a two-horse chariot ? Such as were used in the races at the 
Nemaean games, so that this little picture should, from its 
subject, he related to the chief one ? That cannot be ; for not 
two but four horse chariots were usual in the Nemaean games. 
(Schmidius in Prol. ad Nemeonicas, p. 2.) At one time, I 
thought that Pliny might, instead of "biga2," have written a 
Greek word, Trrvxtov, which the copyists did not understand. 
For we know, from a passage in Antigonus Carystius, quoted 
by Zenobius (conf. Gronovius, T. ix. Antiquit. Graec. PraeL 
p. 7), that the old artists did not always put their name on 
the work itself, but sometimes on a separate tablet, attached 
to the picture or statue, and this tablet was called tztvxiov. 
The word "tabula, tabella," might have been written in the 
margin in explanation of the Greek word, and at last have 
crept into the text, nrvxtov was turned into "bigae," and so 
we get "tabula bigae." This n-Tvx'tov agrees perfectly with 
what follows; for the next sentence contains what was written 
on it. The whole passage would then read thus: "cujus 
supra caput Tzrvxtov dependet, quo Nicias scripsit se inussisse." 
My correction is rather a bold one, I acknowledge. Need a 
critic feel obliged to suggest the proper reading for every pas- 
sage that he can prove to be corrupted ? I will rest content 
with having done the latter, and leave the former to some 
more skilful hand. But to return to the subject under discus- 
sion. If Pliny be here speaking of but a single picture by 
Nicias, on which he had inscribed his name in definite past 
time, and if the second picture thus inscribed be the above- 
mentioned one of Lysippus, where is the third ? That I cannot 
tell. If I might look for it elsewhere among the old writers, 
the question were easily answered. But it ought to be found 
in Pliny ; and there, I repeat, I am entirely unable to dis« 
cover it. 



NOTES. 



243 



Note 56, p. 186. 

Thus Statius says "obnixa pectora" (Thebaid. lib. vi. v, 
863) : 

. . . rumpunt obnixa furentes 
Pectora. 

which the old commentator of Earths explains by "summa vi 
contra nitentia." Thus Ovid says (Halievt. v. ii.), "obnixa 
fronte," when describing the "scarus" trying to force its way 
through the fish-trap, not with his head, but with his tail. 

Non audet radiis obnixa occurrere fronte. 

Note 57, p. 192. 

Geschichte der Kunst, part ii. p. 328. "Pie produced the 
Antigone, his first tragedy, in the third year of the seventy- 
seventh Olympiad." The time is tolerably exact, but it is 
quite a mistake to suppose that this first tragedy was the 
Antigone. Neither is it so called by Samuel Petit, whom 
Winkelmann quotes in a note. He expressly puts the Antig- 
one in the third year of the eighty-fourth Olympiad. The 
following year, Sophocles went with Pericles to Samos, and 
the year of this expedition can be determined with exactness. 
In my life of Sophocles, I show, from a comparison with 
a passage of the elder Pliny, that the first tragedy of this 
author was probably Triptolemus. (Lib. xviii. sect. 12.) 
Pliny is speaking of the various excellence of the fruits of 
different countries, and concludes thus : " Hae fuere sententiae, 
Alexandro magno regnante, cum clarissima fuit Groecia, atque 
in toto terrarum orbe potentissima ; ita tamen ut ante mortem 
ejus annis fere CXLV. Sophocles poeta in fabula Triptolemo 
frumentum Italicum ante cuncta laudaverit, ad verbum trans- 
lata sententia : 

Et fortunatam Itallam frumento canere candido." 

He is here not necessarily speaking of the first tragedy of 
Sophocles, to be sure. But the date of that, fixed by Plu- 
tarch^ the scholiast, and the Arundelian marbles, as the seventy* 



244 



NOTES. 



seventh Olympiad, corresponds so exactly with the date assigned 
by Pliny to the Triptolemus, that we can hardly help regarding 
that as the first of Sophocles' tragedies. The calculation is 
easily made. Alexander died in the hundred and fourteenth 
Olympiad. One hundred and forty-five years cover thirty-six 
Olympiads and one year, which subtracted from the total, 
gives seventy-seven. The Triptolemus of Sophocles appeared 
in the seventy-seventh Olympiad ; the last year of this same 
Olympiad is the date of his first tragedy : we may naturally 
conclude, therefore, that these tragedies are one. I show at 
the same time that Petit might have spared himself the writing 
of the whole half of the chapter in his " Miscellanea " which 
"Winkelmann quotes (xviii. lib. iii.). In the passage of Pliny, 
which he thinks to amend, it is quite unnecessary to change 
the name of the Archon Aphepsion into Demotion, or avexpto^. 
He need only have looked from the third to the fourth year of 
the seventy-seventh Olympiad to find that the Archon of that 
year was called Aphepsion by the ancient authors quite as 
often as Phaedon, if not oftener. He is called Phaedon by 
Diodorus Siculus, Dionysius Halicarnassus, and the anonymous 
author of the table of the Olympiads ; while the Arundelian 
marbles, Apollodorus, and, quoting him, Diogenes Laertius, 
call him Aphepsion. Plutarch calls him by both names ; 
Phaedon in the life of Theseus and Aphepsion in the life of 
Cimon. It is therefore probable, as Palmerius supposes, 
" Aphepsionem et Phaedonem Archontas fuisse eponymos ; 
scilicet, uno in magistratu mortuo, suffectus fuit alter." (Exer- 
cit. p. 452.) This reminds me that Winkelmann, in his first 
work on the imitation of Greek art, allowed an error to creep 
in with regard to Sophocles. "The most beautiful of the 
youths danced naked in the theatre, and Sophocles, the great 
Sophocles, was in his youth the first to show himself thus to 
his fellow-citizens." Sophocles never danced naked on the 
stage. He danced around the trophies after the victory of 
Salamis, according to some authorities naked, but according to 
others clothed. (Athen. lib. i. p. m. 20.) Sophocles was one 
of the boys who was brought for safety to Salamis, and on 



NOTES. 



245 



this island it pleased the tragic muse to assemble her three 
favorites in a gradation typical of their future career. The 
bold iEschylus helped gain the victory ; the blooming Sopho- 
cles danced around the trophies ; and on the same happy 
island, on the very day of the victory, Euripides was born 



INDEX. 



Achilles, sceptre of, 98 ; shield of, 113. 

Action, culminating point of an, not the point to be represented by the 
artist, 16. 

Albani, Cardinal Alexander, his discovery of a vase which illustrated 

the date of the Laocoon, 1 78 ^ seq, 
Anacreon, two odes of, 133, 139. 
Apelles, his picture of Diana, 143. 
Ariosto, his description of Alcina, 128, 138. 
Aristophanes, element of disgust used by, 161. 

Aristotle, advice of, to Protogenes, 76; his reason why we receive 
pleasure from a faithful copy of the disagreeable, 154. 

Art should express nothing essentially transitory, 17. 

Arts among the ancients, subject to the control of law, 10. 

Bacchus, how represented in poetry and painting, 56 et seq. 

Beauty, the supreme law of the imitative arts, 1 1 ; subordinated in 
modem art to other ends, 16 ; representations of physical, the prov- 
ince of painting, not of poetry, 126. 

Boivin, his explanations of Homer, 118, 121. 

Calaber, Quintus, his rendering of the story of Laocoon, 34; his 

account of the death of Thersites, 150. 
CaUimachus, his picture of famine, 165. 
Caricature, law against, among the Thebans, 9. 

Caylus, Count, some points in his work considered, 71, 77, 80, 82, 86, 

87, 93 ; his sketch for a picture of Helen, 140. 
Chateaubrun, his representation of Philoctetes, 25. 
Cicero, his views in regard to bodily pain, 28. 
Clevn, Francis, illustrations by, 39. 



248 



INDEX. 



Constancy, how represented in art, 68 et seq. 

Dacier, Madame, her translation of Homer, 113. 

Dante, his description of the starvation of UgoUno, 166. 

Deformity, physical, in art, produces disgust, 159. 

Disgust produced fliore through the other senses than through that ol 

sight, 160 ; object of, in painting, 167. 
Disgusting, the, its use in expressing the horror of famine, 164. 
Dolce, his dialogue on Painting, 131. 
Drama, expression of suffering in the, 21 et seq. 
Dryden, his Ode on Cecilia's Day, 89. 

Flaccus, Valerius, his description of an angry Venus, et seq, 
French language, not adapted to translation of Homer, 112. 
German language, compared to the Greek, 113. 
I Gladiator, Borghese, the author's theory in regard to the, 184 et teg. 
Gladiatorial shows, effect of, 29. 

Haller, Von, description quoted from his "Alps," 103. 

Hercules, as represented by Sophocles, 6 ; the, of Sophocles, 31. 

Hogarth, his criticism of the Apollo Belvidere, 145. 

Homer, expressions of pain in liis heroes, 4 ; representation of his 
heroes, 79 et seq. ; his descriptions not generally available for 
pictures, 83, 143 ; his picture of Pandarus, 89 ; style of, 93 ; his 
description of the chariot of Juno, 94 j his description of the 
sceptre of Agamemnon, 95 ; of the shield of Achilles, 98, 113, 118 ; 
of the bow of Pandarus, 99 ; his indebtedness to the fiexibihty of 
the Greek language, 112; his description of the beleaguered city, 
121 ; avoids detailed description, 127 ; his representation of Helen, 
136 ; his Thersites, 148 seq. 

Imitations of the poet by the artist and the reverse, 49 et seq. 

Invention required less of the artist than of the poet, 72 et seq. 

funius, Francis, an unsafe authority, 188. 

Juno, how represented in ancient art, 57. 

Kleist, Von, his own judgment of his poem "Spring," 108. 

Klotzius, on the effects of different forms of the disagreeable in art, 1 58. 

Laocoon, of Virgil, 20 et seq. ; compared with the statue, 36 et <q. \ 
contains traits unavailable for the artist, 42 ; the group of, possibly 
suggested by Virgil's description, 43 et seq. ; the, probable d« .c of, 
1 70 et seq. 

Longinus, his remarks in regard tc eloquence and poetry, 188. 
Ludan represents physical beauty ,>y ;omparison with statues, 135. 



INDEX. 



249 



Manasses, Constantinus, his pictures of Helen, 127. 

Martiani, his opinion in regard to the date of the Laocoon, 34 et seq, 

Mazzuoli, his " Rape of the Sabines," 109. 
Mengs, his criticism on Raphael's drapery, 1 10. 
Milton furnishes few subjects for a painter, 87. 
Minerva, how represented in ancient art, 57, 78. 

Montfaucon, his want of taste, 14 ; his opinions in regard to the date 

of the Laocoon, 33 et seq. 
Olympic judges, law of the, 10. 

Ovid, his description of Lesbia, 137 ; his description of the punish- 
ment of Marsyas, 163 ; his picture of famine, 165. 

Pain, expression of, in Sophocles, 3 ; in Homer, 4, 5 ; among Euro- 
peans, 4 ; among the Greeks, 5 ; in its disfiguring extreme, not 
compatible with beauty, 13 ; expression of, among the English, 26. 

Painting among the Greeks confined to imitation of beauty, 8. 

Passion, violent, not expressed m ancient art, 12. 

Pauson, character of his pictures, 9. 

Phidias, his indebtedness to Homer, 144 et seq. 

Philoctetes of Sophocles, the, his sufferings compared with those of 
Laocoon, 3 ; the, of Pythagoras Leontinus, 14 ; of Sophocles, the 
embodiment of physical and mental suffering, 23, 24, 30. 

Picturesque, the, in poetry, 88. 

Pisander, possibly Virgil's predecessor in the history of Laocoon, 34. 
PHny, his mention of the Laocoon, 1 72 ; of famous Greek sculptors, 
173 etseq. 

Poetry, how it surpasses art in description of physical beauty, 137 

et seq. 

Polygnotus, pictures of, 123 et seq. 

Pope, contempt of, for descriptive poems, 108 ; his explanations of 

Homer, 122 et seq. 
Pordenone, his picture of the entombment, 167. 
Pyreicus, character of his pictures, 9. 
Religion, influence of, on art, 62 et seq. 

Richardson, remarks of, on Virgil's Laocoon, 45 ; his criticism of 

Pordenone, 167. 
Ridiculous, the, heightened by an element of disgust, 161. 
Sadolet, exti act from, 46. 

Shakespeare, his use of ugliness in the character of Richard III., 
151. 



250 



INDEX. 



Sophocles, a Laocoon among his lost works, 6 ; his description of the 

desert cave of Philoctetes, 163. 
Spence, Rev. Mr., criticism of his work ** Polymetis," 50; notions of. 

in regard to the resemblance between painting and poetry, 55, 57. 
Statius, his description of an angry Venus, et seq. 
Statues, beautiful, produced beautiful men, 10. 
Stoicism not adapted to the drama, 6. 

Stosch, Herr von, his opinion of the Borghese Gladiator, 183, 
Symbols, use of, in poetry and painting, 67 et seq. 
Temperance, how represented in art, 68 et seq. 
Timanthes, picture of Iphigenia by, 12. 
Timomachus, his representations of Ajax and Medea, 18. 
Titian, his picture of the Prodigal Son, 109. 

Ugliness, as used in poetry, 149, 156; as used in painting, 153, 156. 
Urania, how represented in art, 67. 
Vesta, how worshipped, 64 et seq. 

Virgil, description from the Georgics, 106; his description of the shield 
of iEneas, 114 ; the Dido of, 133 ; liis introduction of the Harpies, 
166. 

Winkelmann, quoted, i ; soundness of his criticism doubted, 2 ; his 
opinion of the Laocoon, 168 ; his opinion of the Borghese Gladiator, 
183 ; criticism of, 187 et seq. 

Zeuxis, his picture of Helen, 140 et seq 



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